02/07/2002 12:00AM

Opposites attracted to Tanforan

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ALBANY, Calif. - There's a big difference between Decarchy, who will be the morning-line favorite, and the improving Poker Brad in Saturday's Grade 3 Tanforan Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

Decarchy, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, began his career in Great Britain, then won his first three races in America after a 15-month layoff before finishing second in the Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park in his last start on Nov. 24.

Poker Brad is a $13,000 yearling purchase at the September 1999 Keeneland Yearling Sale.

Decarchy is trained by Bobby Frankel, who had 49 stakes victories last year, 18 in Grade 1 stakes, and nine each in Grade 2 and Grade 3 races. Included among those victories were the Brown Bess Handicap and Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Poker Brad is trained by Tim McCanna, who didn't even enter horses in 49 stakes last year.

But whether a horse comes from a big barn like Frankel's or a smaller operation like McCanna's, the goals are the same.

Decarchy and Poker Brad both come into the $150,000 Tanforan, run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, with high expectations.

Decarchy was entered in the $150,000 Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap last Saturday but was scratched to run in the Tanforan.

"When Bobby saw who was entered in that race, he chose this one," Frankel's assistant Humberto Ascanio said. "There was no speed in Phoenix."

There was also Auction House, Decarchy's Juddmonte Farms stablemate, who won the race. "You've got to spread them out everywhere," Ascanio said.

McCanna cannot pick and choose stakes spots, but he has pointed Poker Brad to the Tanforan since his second-place finish in the Lafayette Handicap on New Year's Day at Golden Gate Fields. That race was switched from the turf course to the main track because of rain.

"I think he likes turf better than dirt," said McCanna, who has run Poker Brad, a 4-year-old son of Go for Gin, only once on the turf - an allowance victory at Golden Gate Fields.

Poker Brad is "a big, gangly horse who's still a long, long way from what he'll be," McCanna said. Because of his size, the 4-year-old gelding didn't debut until May 28 last year.

He was last in his first start, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint. Stretched out to a mile, he won for a $25,000 claiming price in his next start. Fortunately for McCanna, no one claimed him.

"We bid $13,000 for the horse," McCanna said. "I had him in for $16,000 one time, but I scratched him."

Saturday's race could give Decarchy or Poker Brad their first stakes victory. They will face seven rivals, including the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained entry of Ninebanks and Sirpa.

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