04/06/2005 11:00PM

Pickle should like extra sixteenth in Miss America


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Saturday's $55,000-added Miss America Handicap has been on trainer Sandy Shulman's radar for some time.

He trains the British-bred Pickle, who made her U.S. debut a winning one here March 12 in a one-mile allowance on turf, beating three of her Saturday rivals - First Draft, Marla Bay, and Lucky Sabre.

"That was a prep for this," said Shulman, who has given Pickle a pair of solid works since the victory.

, both shipping north for the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares, appear the ones to beat.

Like Pickle, Danclare raced in England early in her career. After arriving in California, she ran second twice before winning a Santa Anita allowance race in her last start.

Five locals round out the field: Hooked on Niners and Marla Bay, both trained by Bill Morey Jr.; Lucky Sabre and Secret Courier, from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn; and First Draft.

Marla Bay should set the early pace, with Secret Courier, First Draft, and Danclare in pursuit. Pickle will try to sit back and make a big run late, as she did when she beat First Draft by 3 1/2 lengths on March 12.

"She's not a tough horse to ride," Shulman said. "You just have to settle her early. You have to break, take a slight hold, and get her comfortable."

Jon Court, who rode Pickle in her U.S. debut, was very complimentary about the way she ran - although, Shulman said, "Most people said she didn't beat anything that day."

Court will remain at Santa Anita on Saturday, so Roberto Gonzalez gets the call on Pickle.

"We felt she had some potential," said Shulman, who purchased the 4-year-old filly for Ron Charles and Clear Valley Stables last fall. "We felt she may have a career here."

Pickle won 4 of 14 starts before her purchase, capturing three straight at one point last summer. But despite his thoughts on Pickle's future, Shulman said he wanted a moderate spot for her U.S. stakes debut.

"Instead of trying the Wilshire or Santa Barbara, we want to try to let her build her confidence," he said.

The Miss America looks like a good spot for that. The way Pickle finished after moving three wide on the second turn in her last start indicates that the extra sixteenth of a mile may work in her favor as she tries to catch Danclare and Secret Corsage in the lane.