01/26/2009 12:00AM

Opal Haze gets some class relief


ARCADIA, Calif. - The anonymous import Opal Haze catches a break Wednesday at Santa Anita, where relaxed eligibility for allowance races permits the European-raced mare into an easier spot.

Matt Chew trains Opal Haze, a 5-year-old who won 2 of 5 overseas prior to arriving in California. But the summer-fall turf races were too tough. Racing in second-level allowances because she earned $9,795 winning a handicap in England, Opal Haze was overmatched; her best finishes were a second and a third.

However, eligibility guidelines changed this winter at Santa Anita. The cutoff was raised from nonwinners of $7,500, to nonwinners of $10,000. Automatically, Opal Haze was entitled to a class drop.

"It was an absolute home run," Chew said, because "we were competitive at the second condition."

Opal Haze can utilize the advantage Wednesday in race 2, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares, nonwinners of one-other-than.

"It looks like a wide-open race, but where she's been 15- or 20-1, it looks like she'll be about 4- or 5-1," Chew admits.

Six fillies and mares entered; the main competition for Opal Haze will come from stakes dropper Restless Soul, the likely favorite.

According to Chew, a Golden Gate racing official tipped him to the potential class drop. Soon after Opal Haze finished last in a second-level allowance at Santa Anita on Dec. 31, Chew got a call from David Jerkens, Golden Gate stakes coordinator and assistant racing secretary.

"He actually pointed it out," Chew said, referring to the eligibility change.

Other starters in race 2 include longshot Super Nan, likely co-favorite Darling Mambo, Fire n' Brimstone, and Carnival Queen.

Chew will be busy Wednesday; he also starts Kathy's Garden in race 5. She drops into a $32,000 maiden-claimer after losing her four starts against special-weight maidens.

"I've had a lot of trouble keeping her sound, you see by the breaks," Chew said.

Her career riddled with layoff lines, Kathy's Garden finished fifth of 10 in a special-weight turf race Jan. 4.

"We've got her going good now; it's time to be aggressive," Chew said. "Without a doubt, the class drop is huge."

Her rivals include Inoplov and Ellie L.