09/01/2005 12:00AM

Penny Ante must hustle from post 9

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - The trip may have made the difference when Penny Ante defeated 2-5 shot Pickle in their last meeting.

The trip could matter again Saturday after Pickle drew the rail and Penny Ante the outside post 9 in the $60,000 Hillsborough Handicap at one mile on turf at Bay Meadows.

arguably had the more difficult journey in the 1 1/16-mile Luther Burbank on July 30, the first stakes race on the new Santa Rosa turf course.

She had to dodge a plastic garbage bag that floated onto the course just as the gates opened. She was pressured on the lead, and looked beaten as Pickle pulled within a head of her at the top of the stretch.

But , who had a seemingly perfect stalking trip, flattened out as Penny Ante pulled away to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

In fact, the trip that may have cost Pickle the race was her van ride from Del Mar to Santa Rosa, which took 20 hours because of a freeway closure. A smoother journey to reach Bay Meadows may be the key to Pickle's success, as Penny Ante will again face plenty of pace pressure.

"Obviously, we've got to get out and get over," trainer William E. Morey said of Penny Ante's strategy.

One thing in Penny Ante's favor is that she doesn't need the lead to win. Penny Ante has speed, but she has won with a stalking trip, such as on May 29 when Morey claimed her for $32,000 for himself and Stewball Stable.

"It looks on paper as if she'll be one-two down the backstretch," Morey said.

Her victory in the Burbank earned her a career-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure, but Morey thinks Penny Ante may be able to do even better.

"It's not like that one came from out of nowhere," he said of the stakes win. "She was on the upswing. She seems to do well with some time between races, and she seems to be staying good.

"Frank's been staying on her, and she's doing well," said Morey, referring to jockey Frank Alvarado, who will ride her again. "Her work times don't look fast, but the track's been slow."

, Slew's in Demand, and possibly First Draft, who won the Miss America here in April, could present pace pressure, with Pickle and Lucky Sabre sitting back a bit to get ready to make first-run trips.

Bartok's Blithe and Crozet, who are coupled, and River Ella round out the field.