04/12/2006 11:00PM

Mason's new one looks solid

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ALBANY, Calif. - On the surface, trainer Lloyd Mason should be sitting pretty with barn newcomer Soft Seventeen for Saturday's $40,000-added North Beach Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

Among the five 3-year-olds in the 1 1/16-mile grass race, Soft Seventeen is the only one to have won on turf and place in a stakes.

But with rain in the forecast and little time to get to know his new charge, Mason, frankly, doesn't know what to expect.

"He shipped here four days ago," Mason said after the draw Wednesday. "The owner's from Washington, so I'm not sure how long he'll stay here."

There are no guarantees Saturday's overnight stakes will be run on the turf. In fact, Mason will be surprised if the race is run on the grass.

Soft Seventeen couldn't win for a $7,500 maiden claiming tag at Emerald Downs last summer. He became stakes-placed with a third in the Fool Experts at Turf Paradise last fall before finally winning his maiden on Jan. 6.

Since then, he has finished third in the $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby, won a first-level allowance race on the turf, and finished fourth as the favorite in the $40,000 Tempe Handicap on the turf.

Soft Seventeen broke poorly in the Turf Paradise Derby, hopping at the start and not getting into gear early. He made a strong move into the lane before flattening out, but did finish third at 49-1.

In the Tempe Handicap, he was sitting in a good stalking position between runners, then got bumped and shuffled back a bit approaching the quarter pole. He finished evenly, passing three runners, but was not a threat to the top three.

Mason has good success with newcomers to his barn, winning at a 30-percent clip. He has simply tried to get Soft Seventeen to acclimate to his new locale.

Soft Seventeen will have to catch a pair of Jerry Hollendorfer-trained runners, Dr. Einstein and Passive Income.

Dr. Einstein should be able to dominate the pace with his rail draw and top speed rider Roberto Gonzalez aboard. He has used his natural speed to good advantage since stretching out.

Passive Income was fourth to Cause to Believe in the California Derby after running a solid second to Point Determined, second in the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday, in his previous start. He has met the toughest competition and has never failed to pick up a check.