03/21/2002 12:00AM

Relaxed 'Bargain' at peak


ALBANY, Calif. - Because Fancee Bargain was willing to allow Art and Steve Sherman to train her, the three might meet in the winner's circle following Saturday's $55,000-added Soviet Problem Handicap at Golden Gate Fields. The six-furlong Soviet Problem has a field of eight fillies and mares.

Fancee Bargain used to be high-strung and hard to train, said Steve Sherman, assistant to his father, Art. But she has settled down enough to have won both her starts this year.

"She's let us work with her, and we've figured out some things," Steve Sherman said. "We've kind of met in the middle.

"She's getting better with age. She's calmed down. She used to be nutty and hard to saddle. The one thing that did get better is she's relaxed. That's helped tremendously."

Steve Sherman has done much of the work with the 6-year-old Fancee Bargain, who has five wins, 10 seconds, and a third in 23 starts, and has earned $170,328.

"We always thought she'd be pretty good, but she actually surprised me and outran what I thought she could do," Sherman said.

Sherman schooled Fancee Bargain often, and he gives her special attention.

"We take her out first thing in the morning, whether it's to work or jog," he said. "She gets her business out of the way early, then relaxes."

Sherman said Fancee Bargain is so sharp that the Soviet Problem "is really the only place we could go.

"She's earned the chance, and we'd like a chance to get her stakes-placed to make her more attractive as a broodmare."

Sherman says having Frank Alvarado to ride is a plus. Fancee Bargain has always run well for Alvarado.

"I have confidence I can put her wherever I want," Alvarado said. "She doesn't like to be pushed early, so I just look right away for the best spot and put her there."

The likely favorite is Bullish Miss, who was second to Above Perfection and to Hall of Gold in sprint stakes this year. Another contender is Selector, who was third behind Hall of Gold and Bullish Miss in the Richmond Handicap in her last start here on Feb. 16.

Da Vinna, Gifted Daughter, and Rosanda come into the race off allowance scores. Rollette won a stakes here last year. Madame Pietra was second after leading in the lane in an optional $80,000 claimer at Santa Anita in her last start.