07/02/2001 11:00PM

Robaleur outclasses 3-year-old stakes

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PLEASANTON, Calif. - Robaleur, who has looked like a new horse since returning from a six-month layoff, looms a legitimate heavy favorite in the $40,000 Pleasanton Handicap for 3-year-olds at the Alameda County Fair Thursday.

Only five entered the 1 1/16-mile race.

Robaleur, owned by the Walter Family Trust and trained by Armando Lage, was just another 2-year-old maiden last year, finishing second once from six starts and finishing no better than fifth in his other starts.

However, he returned from a six-month layoff on May 19 at Bay Meadows and won impressively in a six-furlong maiden race. He rallied from far back while circling rivals on the turn, then powered by the leaders in the stretch to win going away with a respectable 77 Beyer Speed Figure. The win was even more impressive when it is noted that his best race at 2 came around two turns.

On June 13, Lage moved Robaleur into allowance company and stretched him out to a mile, and he responded with a 6 1/2-length victory, earning an excellent 92 Beyer.

There is no reason this lightly raced colt cannot run even better on Thursday, and his competition does not appear formidable.

The main threat clearly is Legal Wynner, who is coming off a solid first-level allowance victory on the turf. He earned an 87 Beyer and should offer some competition to the top choice if he can reproduce that form on the main track.

Trained by Leonard Shoemaker, Legal Wynner raced well on the main track in his career debut, rallying from far back to finish second. But then, after beating maidens impressively on the grass, he went back to the main track for an allowance race and finished last. Returned to the turf, he posted his authoritative win last out.

Obviously, that one bad race is not conclusive proof he prefers grass, but his two best Beyers both came on grass and he is bred to like that surface.

Others in the line-up are Ironman Dehere, who most recently finished second at 30-1 in an allowance race at Bay Meadows; Adjournment, a turf horse who was unplaced in his only career main-track race; and Padirac, a claimer who appears overmatched here.