04/10/2002 11:00PM

Ocean Bay practically anyone's race

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PHOENIX, Ariz. - How competitive is Saturday's $22,000 Ocean Bay at a mile on a turf?

Of the nine entrants, five come off wins. One who doesn't was facing tougher in Southern California previously. Another one was good enough to get a shot against other Southern California shippers in the $50,000 Glendale Handicap here Feb. 9. One of those who did win her last start, did so sprinting on dirt; she's never won on turf and never won going this far.

It adds up to some good wagering opportunities in the 3-year-old and upward filly-and-mare race, as no clear-cut favorite allows handicappers to choose among several nicely priced runners.

The role of favorite might eventually fall to Win a Feu. A 5-year-old mare, she comes off two smashing wins, in the Cactus Flower Handicap and an optional claimer. Those races, however, were sprints on the main track. This is a different game entirely.

Yet the Michael Lenzini-trained mare, while winless on turf, has run well on the surface. Last spring at Bay Meadows, she was second, beaten a nose on the turf at this distance. Considering her sharp current form, she might be ready to run back to that effort, which would make her tough to beat.

Balboa Park comes off a couple disappointing efforts, but there might be mitigating circumstances. Last time, in the Cactus Flower that was won by Win a Feu, she chased inside early, then faltered badly to ninth. But she never has been quite as good sprinting on dirt. Before that, she tried some tough Southern California shippers in the Glendale Handicap, and while unable to challenge them - finishing ninth - she doesn't face anyone like Catz or So Wistfullee this time around.

The previous two times she raced on turf, she won, including a win over similar at this same trip here on Jan. 14. She can certainly win this on her best day. The main issue is whether you believe those last two poor efforts are indications that she is not at her best now.

Like Win a Feu, Jocko Miss comes here as the sharp, in-form horse. She has won four of her last six starts, all on the turf here, and comes off two smart wins over allowance, non-winners-twice-other-than foes. She has won half her turf starts - six of 12 - and is five for nine on this course. If she maintains that form, she also will be tough, indeed.

Hazen can win this race, too, having finished first and second in her only two turf starts, including beating Jocko Miss at this trip on this course in December. But Hazen hasn't run since winning an optional claimer on the dirt here Feb. 2. She has been working strongly, but didn't get much help on the draw either. Her outside post (No. 8) is a hindrance on this course at this trip.

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