05/22/2003 11:00PM

Metatron nearing his peak


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Monday's $100,000 Seabiscuit Handicap at Bay Meadows may have a field of only six.

Reba's Gold seems set for his first start since a ninth-place finish in the Japan Cup last Nov. 23. I'madrifter, who won two stakes at Golden Gate Fields earlier this year, and Free Corona, who has five stakes victories at Turf Paradise this year, will run in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile race.

Truly a Judge, second in the Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood Park in his last start, and Metatron, third in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland in his last start, will also be entered. Tiz a Coup, a 3-year-old who was third in the Snow Chief in his stakes debut, is expected to meet his elders in the race.

Metatron, highly regarded in northern California since winning his debut as a 2-year-old in 2001, may be at the top of his game again after having gone through a slump which began last fall.

He was a wire-to-wire winner here at 1 1/16 miles in a $100,000 optional claimer March 15, then set the pace before finishing third as Mineshaft ran away down the stretch of the Ben Ali.

"He's just doing better," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "Some-times horses just do better than other times. The winner of that last race is a really good horse.

"He hasn't run that many bad races. He's 10-for-14 [on the board]. I haven't gotten down on him."

Metatron was being pointed to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after a third-place finish to Siphonic and Harlan's Holiday in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity. He came down with colitis X after the race and nearly died.

He won his comeback race, a six-furlong sprint at Golden Gate Fields in February 2002, then went to the sidelines for another eight months after surgery to remove a chip from his knee.

After two optional claiming sprint preps last October, he was seventh in the six-furlong Albany Handicap, sixth in the 1 1/16-mile Forty Niner Handicap, last of nine in the Lafayette Handicap on New Year's Day, and fourth in a $100,000 optional claiming sprint at Santa Anita.

Since that race his form has turned around.

Optional claimer leads to Oaks

Thursday's feature race, a one-mile $62,500 optional claimer on the turf, may have produced at least three runners for the $75,000 Bay Meadows Oaks on June 14. Race winner Can I Call You Dad, runner-up Mac Melody, and fourth-place finisher China Princess will all be pointed to the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

Can I Call You Dad has now won two straight starts on the turf.

"She had to do some running at both ends of the race, keeping the pressure on Wild Girl, then holding off Mac Melody," said Aggie Ordonez, assistant trainer for Brent Sumja.

Dean Pederson wishes Mac Melody had won, but he said, "I thought she ran well. The other filly had more tactical speed."