01/19/2005 12:00AM

Mountain Mustang steps up in good form

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ALBANY, Calif. - Mountain Mustang will seek his third straight victory when he meets five rivals in a $40,000 claimer at six furlongs Friday at Golden Gate Fields.

Mountain Mustang won a bottom-level $25,000 maiden claimer at Hollywood Park last summer and was later claimed by trainer Art Sherman for $20,000 at Del Mar. Mountain Mustang was then taken north, and he won at first asking for his new connections when dropped to the $16,000 claiming level in September.

Mountain Mustang moved up to the $25,000 level in his next start and ran second to Ceez the Minute after setting the pace. He fell apart completely in his start after that, finishing ninth by 14 lengths Oct. 31.

Mountain Mustang is 2 for 2 since racing switched to Golden Gate Fields, having won a pair of fast races at the $25,000 claiming level before stepping up for this race.

Mountain Mustang will have to overcome several serious challenges Friday, including one from the speedy Sloat Blvd, who won four straight last summer.

In Mountain Mustang's two races at Golden Gate, he ran his opening half-miles in 44.11 and 44.76 seconds. Last summer, Sloat Blvd was running sub-44's, but he didn't show his usual speed in his last start, on New Year's Day at Santa Anita, when he finished sixth by 11 1/2 lengths.

Should a pace duel develop, Ice Legend and Rare Request will be sitting in perfect positions.

Although Ice Legend staggered home in the slop when going a route last time, he sat off the pace to beat an allowance field sprinting in his previous start.

Rare Request has set fast fractions in recent turf routes but will be off the early pace here. Those routes undoubtedly have him legged up for a strong run down the lane.

Rounding out the field are Bas Giant, who trailed stablemate Mountain Mustang in his comeback after eight months on the sidelines, and Emerald Downs invader Eastern Accent, who has been on the sidelines for nearly four months.