10/06/2005 12:00AM

Penny Ante has staying power


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Penny Ante will have a new role in Saturday's $75,000 Autumn Leaves Handicap at Bay Meadows.

She'll be the one to beat, not simply the front-running upsetter, in the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares.

has defeated odds-on Pickle and Lucky Sabre in northern California's past two turf stakes for fillies and mares, the Luther Burbank at Santa Rosa and the Hillsborough Handicap over the turf here on Sept. 3. The three are entered along with eight rivals for Saturday's race.

"They've got us to beat," said Penny Ante's trainer, William E. Morey.

Since claiming Penny Ante for $32,000 for himself and Stewball Stable on May 29, Morey has seen the 4-year-old filly run second in a $62,500 optional claimer and roll off two stakes victories. She has won two of her three starts over the Bay Meadows turf course, finishing second in the other.

One determination that Morey made after claiming the filly was to space her races, and he has been successful doing that.

"She looks good, is eating good, feeling good, and is all dappled out," he said.

She has worked steadily since her last start, and Morey hopes the fact that has run once since the Hillsborough will work in his favor, with his filly being fresher than Pickle.

The race seems to set up as a rerun of the past two stakes. Penny Ante should be able to dictate the pace, and she has proven very game in the lane when challenged.

The difference Saturday will be that regular rider Frank Alvarado won't be aboard as he serves a three-day suspension.

"Things seemed to conspire against Frank," Morey said. "In any other situation, he would have been able to ride her. If we'd run earlier this week, he'd be back riding today." Bay Meadows was dark Wednesday and Thursday to avoid an overlap with Fresno.

Leading rider Russell Baze, who rode Pickle in her past two starts, has taken the call on Penny Ante. David Lopez gets the mount on Pickle.

"We got a little lucky there," said Morey, noting that Baze rode Penny Ante to victory the day Morey claimed her and also knows Pickle's running style.

First Draft, fourth in the Hillsborough while coming off a three-month freshener, could break up the Penny Ante-Pickle-Lucky Sabre troika now that she has a race under her belt. She won the Miss America over the Bay Meadows turf in April.