07/14/2004 11:00PM

Pheiffer, 'Christmas' get ready for round six


VALLEJO, Calif. - It may not be Affirmed vs. Alydar, but Saturday's $50,000 Vacaville Handicap at the Solano County Fair marks another showdown between Christmas Time and Pheiffer.

The two sprinters have met five times already in 2004, and Saturday's six-furlong race for fillies and mares is a natural spot for them to renew their rivalry.

They have four rivals, including graded stakes winner Icantgoforthat, who set the pace before losing to Ema Bovary in the Grade 3 Las Flores earlier this year at Santa Anita. Icantgoforthat brings in the biggest bankroll, with $406,024 in earnings. Summer Lass, Western View, and Lady Sabrina round out the field.

Christmas Time and Pheiffer were second and third behind Ema Bovary in their 2004 debuts in the Orinda Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

In the Richmond Handicap at Golden Gate Fields, Pheiffer defeated Christmas Time, who finished third.

Christmas Time has won her past three meetings with Pheiffer, capturing the Soviet Problem at Golden Gate Fields, the Woodside at Bay Meadows, and a specially written allowance race in the last start for both at Bay Meadows on June 17. In that race, Pheiffer headed Christmas Time in the stretch, but Christmas Time re-rallied to win by a neck.

Pheiffer tailed off after winning the Richmond, running fifth in both the Soviet Problem and Woodside. She was then sixth going one mile in the Santa Clara, but seemed to bounce back when second to Christmas Time in the allowance race.

Both have run well here in the past.

Christmas Time was second to Sharp Miss in last year's Fairfield Stakes for 3-year-old fillies here. Pheiffer was second to Christmas Time's stablemate Lacie Girl last year in the Vacaville, in which she was making her first start in nearly a year.

Christmas Time's trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, who is northern California's leading trainer, has won seven stakes races at Bay Meadows and two more at the recently concluded Pleasanton meet.

Christmas Time has won three straight when running against her own sex, but finished sixth against males in the Saratoga Handicap at Bay Meadows on May 22.

"You just try to keep horses fit and happy," Hollendorfer said. "If horses stay sound, they run like they're supposed to. She's pretty comfortable with what she's doing."

Christmas Time drew the rail, just inside of Icantgoforthat. Pheiffer may have a better post, 5, but it's hard to look past the sharp Christmas Time.