05/01/2003 11:00PM

Lucky Sabre a sharp play in Railbird

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PHOENIX - Lucky may be in her name but luck has nothing to do with Lucky Sabre's ability.

A 3-year-old filly trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Lucky Sabre has a chance to upset the formidable entry of Buffythecenterfold and Dash for Money in Sunday's Grade 3 Railbird Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Lucky Sabre came to hand quickly last summer, winning a maiden sprint at Bay Meadows in September. She just missed in an entry-level allowance sprint at Golden Gate Dec. 4 and that big effort hinted at what was to come - wins in a $50,000 optional claimer at Golden Gate in January and in the $60,000 Vallejo there Feb. 16.

She finished fourth, beaten a length, in the California Oaks at Golden Gate March 15. Hollendorfer wheeled her back in the $60,000 San Jose at Bay Meadows April 13, only to see her finish second, beaten just a head by the streaking Malvoreen.

Her three stakes efforts validated her quality, and because all three came routing she should have plenty of foundation for the seven-furlong Railbird. Her two strong sprints over the winter show she's not out of her element at this trip.

Lucky Sabre, a Florida-bred daughter of Lucky North, has 3 firsts and 2 seconds in 7 starts and has earned $91,225. Hollendorfer also is among her owners, so you would think he could race her where he desired. That he has chosen to run her in the Railbird indicates he thinks she's capable of winning.

Talk about tough

Dress to Thrill, Dublino, Golden Apples, Heat Haze, Lilac Queen, Megahertz, Riskaverse, Sea of Showers, Tates Creek, Trekking, Turtle Bow, Voodoo Dancer, Wonder Again. So you think your division is tough? Just look at that group of turf females. It's quality through and through.

There's also Grade 1 winner Affluent, who runs on turf and dirt. A cut below the top turf fillies and mares are Final Destination, Garden in the Rain, and Dedication, and South American champion Miss Terrible, trained by Bobby Frankel, is getting closer to race.

Maybe the best of them all, Ipi Tombe, the South African sensation who drilled some of the best males in the world in Dubai, is now in the United States for Team Valor and trainer Elliott Walden, and just posted her first work.

For the sake of argument, here are some early rankings, though the Grade 1 Gamely later this month at Hollywood may change things: 1. Ipi Tombe 2. Dress to Thrill 3. Tates Creek 4. Megahertz 5. Dublino 6. Voodoo Dancer 6. Golden Apples 7. Miss Terrible 8. Wonder Again 9. Affluent 10. Lilac Queen

The greatest?

The retirement of Laffit Pincay Jr. on its own is sad enough, but for West Coast fans it's another kick in the stomach.

His leaving means that in the last six months we have lost to retirement Pincay, Chris McCarron, and Eddie Delahoussaye. Since the mid-70's those three have been among the top riders in Southern California.

The sad thing for Laffit is that 10,000 wins was within his reach - it was a number no one considered possible a few years ago. And Laffit didn't get to leave on his terms, instead being forced out by injury.

Pincay's legacy is that of a strong finisher, but in some respects that takes away from his overall greatness. His finishing power was so overwhelming many forget he was a great gate jock, super on the lead, and had the proverbial clock in his head. I think he's the greatest jock of all-time - and certainly in the top three.

If nothing else, Pincay let you know you were alive. When you had your $2 on his back there was no surrender. Maybe his horse wasn't good enough, but that didn't mean he didn't give a top effort.

In the early to mid-90's he was a forgotten man, like a piece of clothing that had gone out of fashion. But he made adjustments, and managed to resurrect a great career. The past couple years he was riding as well as ever.

There have been other great riders, but when it came to consistency of performance, Laffit Pincay Jr. is in a club of his own.