03/31/2004 1:00AM

Natural Style steps up


ARCADIA, Calif. - Natural Style ran for a $14,000 purse when he scored a half-length win against state-bred $10,000 claimers at Santa Anita on March 19.

The win came against the lowest level of competition at Santa Anita, but that did not bother trainer Jack Carava. He had lost Natural Style in a $12,500 claiming race on Feb. 16 and took him back for the lower price on March 19.

On Friday, takes a jump in class, to an optional claimer for statebreds with a purse of $49,000. Even though he has been facing cheap claimers, Natural Style is capable of winning the six-furlong race.

A winner of 10 of 31 starts and $124,938, Natural Style breaks from the rail.

"He's just a hard-trying horse that hits the board all the time," Carava said. "He seems like he was coming around when I had him."

Friday's feature is not a strong race. Of the seven runners, only Natural Style and Summer Sport have more than one win. Summer Sport, an invader from northern California, won a starter allowance race at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 25.

The likely favorite is , who has one win in six starts. Trained by Doug Peterson, Fairly Crafty was a game second in an optional claimer on the main track on Feb. 16, but was 10th in a turf race on March 11.

Fairly Crafty won a six-furlong race for statebred maidens on Jan. 9, rallying from fourth place.

In January, Natural Style finished third against $16,000 claimers at Golden Gate Fields and was claimed by Carava. In his next start, Natural Style finished third against $12,500 claimers and was claimed away from Carava.

"I was stuck in a spot to run him," he said. "I wasn't counting on losing him when I lost him for $12,500.

"I was surprised they ran him back for $10,000. He ran great that day. I started glancing at some of his numbers and he runs high Beyers for a cheap horse."

Natural Style earned an 88 Beyer Speed Figure when he won

March 19. That compares well to the 91 Beyer that Fairly Crafty earned in his last race on the main track.

That has given Carava confidence to try Natural Style in an optional claimer. Even though it seems an unconventional move, it would be profitable if Natural Style finishes first or second.

"Instead of knocking heads with $25,000 claimers, we decided to try this," he said. "My theory was if he runs second it will be worth $10,000."