04/04/2002 1:00AM

One-run Brew can be value

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SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - The top locally based horses will take on some tough out-of-towners here Saturday in both the $75,000 Sunland Park Handicap and the $60,000 Harry Henson Handicap.

Brew will have to step up a notch to defend his title in the Sunland Park Handicap, as he will face the Steve Asmussen-trained invader Big Numbers.

Big Numbers comes off a third-place finish to Mr Ross and Remington Rock in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park on March 16. He vied for the lead there before being beaten a half-length. Before that, Big Numbers won an allowance at Oaklawn. He will carry top weight of 122 pounds Saturday.

Big Numbers is a versatile type who can stalk the pace or take the initiative. Depending on how the race shapes up, jockey Donnie Meche will have a variety of tactical options at his disposal.

Brew, on the other hand, is a one-dimensional closer. His credentials are solid, however, and he should by no means be ignored if Big Numbers is overbet.

Owned by the Crew of Brew and trained by Johnie Jamison, Brew has earned more than $350,000. Last year he equaled the 1 1/16-mile track record winning this race.

With many members of this field possessing tactical speed, jockey Miguel Fuentes will be hoping for someone to step up and set a fast pace.

Asmussen also holds an ace in the one-mile Harry Henson - McKinney. A 4-year-old filly, McKinney is a proven commodity at the distance who favors a closing style. She comes into the Henson 3 for 3 on the year racing at Oaklawn and Fair Grounds. She does not, however, appear unbeatable.

The problem for McKinney's foes is not lack of talent but a potential lack of stamina, as both top local challengers are primarily sprinters.

Ode to Elaine is a multiple stakes winner in the Southwest, and speed is her game. Without an abundance of pace entered in the Henson, trainer Bart Hone and jockey Manuel Ortiz will be looking to steal an easy lead.

The other local horse who deserves consideration is I Got Silver. A 6-year-old former claimer on the Southern California circuit, I Got Silver has blossomed in New Mexico this winter for trainer Coy Hendrix, winning three of four races, with her only loss coming to Ode to Elaine.

I Got Silver is a closing sprinter attempting to stretch out under jockey Nena Matz. Matz will have to decide early on whether to lay close to the slower pace of a route or stay back and make her usual one run that has worked so well for I Got Silver so far this meet.

In her last race, the 6 1/2 furlong Santa Teresa Handicap on March 10, I Got Silver rallied from six wide and took over inside the sixteenth pole, but the Henson's one mile will be a whole new ballgame.

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