05/03/2002 12:00AM

Return of prodigal trainer


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Chris Paasch, who made a name for himself in northern California but now is based in Southern California, returns to his roots Sunday at Bay Meadows when he starts Stormy Society in the $55,000-added Santa Clara Handicap.

The one-mile race for older fillies and mares drew a field of six. Entrants, from the rail out, are Rosanda, Stormy Society, Red Hot and Blue, Lindsay Jean, My First Lady, and Bold Roberta.

Paasch purchased Stormy Society in Florida earlier this year.

"She's a great big, fleshy, beautiful filly," he said. "I liked the fact that she was 4 [years old]. At 5 or 6, sometimes there's a can of worms you don't want to open up."

The main attribute that attracted Paasch was Stormy Society's great natural speed.

"I'm kind of a sucker for a horse with speed," he said.

Paasch thought Stormy Society would fit well in California but not just because of her speed.

"There are some nice older fillies [in Southern California], but the middle is a little soft," he said. "I'd like to win or place in a graded stakes. If she gets black type in a graded race, she'll retain her value no matter what she does racing later.

"When I was up there [in northern California], I looked at a horse as a racehorse only. I never looked at one as a broodmare prospect."

Stormy Society ran a career-best 100 Beyer in her first race for Paasch on March 1. He wheeled her back in the Santa Lucia Handicap on March 31 at Santa Anita, and she finished last.

"The last race was a huge disappointment," he said. "I guess you'd say she bounced. Two days after the race, she came up with a cough and a 102-degree temperature. We've backed up and regrouped."

Stormy Society, who will be ridden by Jason Lumpkins, will go early said Paasch.

"I don't think she has to be on the lead, but she will be forwardly placed," Paasch said. "It doesn't matter where she is as long as she's comfortable."

Paasch put together a solid barn, albeit primarily of claimers, when he trained in northern California. Then came a winning battle with cancer.

When he returned to training, Paasch began to get better horses, and he has been able to translate his success with claimers to his upgraded stock.