04/04/2002 12:00AM

Nice spot for graded victory


ARCADIA, Calif. - In most years, the $150,000 San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita would be a stern test for Bosque Redondo, a minor stakes winner last month.

But with none of the top finishers of the Santa Anita Handicap returning in the lineup, Saturday's running of the Grade 2 San Bernardino is not strong.

For the 5-year-old Bosque Redondo, the San Bernardino is the ideal opportunity to win the first graded stakes of his career. In his last start on March 9, Bosque Redondo, trained by Paco Gonzalez, won the minor Tokyo City Handicap over a mile.

Run over 1 1/8 miles, the San Bernardino has drawn six runners, none of whom has won a graded stakes this year. Freedom Crest, the 115-pound highweight, is the most accomplished in the last year, having won the Grade 2 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap last October in an upset over Tiznow.

Since then, Freedom Crest has finished 13th in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park and 10th in the Santa Anita Handicap, but is the entrant Gonzalez fears.

A stalker, Freedom Crest is trying for his third stakes win.

"Freedom Crest, if he's right, can be a tough horse," Gonzalez said.

So can Bosque Redondo, who appears to be in the best form of his career. He has won two of his last three starts, including an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 28.

In the Tokyo City, Bosque Redondo led throughout, but scored from a stalking position in the allowance race in December.

"I don't know about the mile and an eighth, but he's doing good," Gonzalez said.

"He's been running second or third behind the speed. He needs to be close. In the last three races, he's been a consistent horse. He's maybe not a top horse, but he's a good second-level horse."

Bosque Redondo could be joined on the front by Agol Lack, a 6-year-old trained by Laura de Seroux.

A multiple stakes winner in France in 2000, Agol Lack is winless in four starts in this country, including a fourth in the 2000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, his lone start on dirt.

De Seroux said Agol Lack will wear blinkers in the San Bernardino.

"He doesn't have a lot of turn of foot, and he's bred for the dirt," de Seroux said. "I think this is a great start to try him on the dirt. I'll put him right on the pace."