12/05/2006 12:00AM

Press Camp put to the test


SAN MATEO, Calif. - One of northern California's top 3-year-old fillies has a tough assignment when she returns to the races Thursday at Bay Meadows.

Press Camp, who won the six-furlong Tiburon Handicap and the one-mile San Ramon at Golden Gate Fields this spring, faces six rivals in a five-furlong, $80,000 optional claimer on turf. The race, her first since she finished second in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness at Pimlico on May 19, will also mark her first start against older rivals and her first start on turf.

Trainer Billy Morey said the race will be an important gauge for Press Camp's future.

"It's really the only race she's eligible for," Morey said. "There are no stakes on the horizon, and she has no conditions left. This is a comeback spot for her."

Although her dam is a daughter of Moscow Ballet, Press Camp is not bred for the turf.

"The surface is a question," Morey said. "But she's run on everything. I expect her to be okay."

Press Camp's two stakes victories this year have come against Victorina and Bai and Bai, two of northern California's top 3-year-old fillies. In the Miss Preakness, she fell two lengths short of Miss Bettie B, who went on to win a Grade 1.

Press Camp has been off nearly seven months, but Morey said he is pleased with the way she has been training for her comeback. He said her two most recent works were particularly good, including a five-furlong work in 59.60 seconds Nov. 25, which was the fastest of 15 at the distance.

A strong effort Thursday could propel Press Camp to the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita on Dec. 30.

"It's a big goal in the back of our minds," said Morey.

Press Camp will be meeting two stakes winners, The Yellow Sheet and Indian Breeze, as well as the stakes-placed Cut the Mustard, who in her most recent start went wire to wire in a $62,500 optional claimer at five furlongs on the turf here.

The Yellow Sheet, a 6-year-old, won the Warren Thoroughbred early in her career. In her last start, she finished third in the Daisycutter at five furlongs July 28 at Del Mar.

Indian Breeze, who the Landaluce last year as a 2-year-old, won at five furlongs on the turf in her 2006 debut Sept. 1, which came off a one-year layoff. Since then, she has finished fifth and ninth in two stakes.