02/11/2003 1:00AM

Rain can make it a 'Pay Day'


ARCADIA, Calif. - Weeks of dry weather has given way to the first rainstorm of the Southern California winter, and its duration throughout the six-day race week at Santa Anita will affect all that is four-legged.

Very little training was conducted Tuesday on a muddy track, the only turf race Wednesday was moved to dirt, and the complexion and distance of the Thursday feature will be unknown until race day.

One certainty is that the seventh race, a three-other-than turf allowance, will be run with fewer starters than the eight that entered. Bonus Pay Day and Truly a Judge will stay in the race and attract most of the betting if the race is moved to dirt. On turf, Royal Gem, the Hollywood Derby third-place finisher, would hold the advantage.

Forecasts call for rain to continue through Thursday, in which case the $65,000 allowance is likely to be moved to the main track and shortened to 1 1/16 miles. On turf, the race will go at 1 1/8 miles. Bonus Pay Day, who romped by 5 1/2 lengths in his comeback, is the horse to beat on dirt.

A 5-year-old trained by Pete Eurton, Bonus Pay Day had not raced in nearly two months when he returned in a similar spot Jan. 17. He raced in second position, cruised to the lead passing the quarter pole, and romped with a Beyer Speed Figure of 104. It was the ninth career win for Bonus Pay Day, who has earned $194,516 since Eurton claimed him a year ago for $32,000.

Truly a Judge lost his chance at the break in the comeback race won by Bonus Pay Day. Crowded at the start and unable to establish position, he finished a distant third. It was Truly a Judge's first start in nearly three months. He shows three works since and should improve second start back. Oh Take and Last Parade also will run on dirt.

Royal Gem was nominated to the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap on Saturday, which provides some indication of how he fits in a three-other-than such as the one Thursday.

A 4-year-old trained by Bobby Frankel, Royal Gem won the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Derby before a third-place finish in the Grade Hollywood Derby.

Royal Gem returns with a steady work tab, and probably would be a short price on grass. He has won 3 of 6 and earned $201,760. Other entrants include Hattab, All the Gears, and Dicken's Storm.

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