01/05/2007 1:00AM

Roscoe Pito looks in a tough spot

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ALBANY, Calif. - Running against Smokey Stover wasn't what trainer John Snow envisioned when he brought Roscoe Pito to northern California from British Columbia.

But, like Smokey Stover's trainer, Greg Gilchrist, Snow is happy to get a chance to run despite the tough assignment in Sunday's Golden Gate Fields feature, a six-furlong allowance race.

The race, which twice failed to fill in the past week, drew five runners.

"We came down because we wanted to try him on the turf," Snow said. "We entered turf races several times at Bay Meadows, but they didn't fill."

Although Roscoe Pito's 10 victories and $581,195 in earnings are the highest among the five runners in the field, he doesn't seem a threat to win. He likes to run on the front end in routes, and set the early pace in the George Royal at 6 1/2 furlongs at Hastings in his first start of 2006.

Vaderator, who comes into the race with two straight victories, looms the speed of the race. Smokey Stover has speed but prefers to stalk and will likely sit second.

The stakes winner Court's in Session is best when he sits back early. General Bob, meeting the toughest field of his life, generally sits in midpack, even in claiming races.

Snow will tell jockey Javier Matias not to hustle Roscoe Pito early.

"I just want him to grab hold and relax him," Snow said. "I don't want to take him off his game and send him because we're going short. His best chance is to relax and make a run late."

Snow may keep the 7-year-old Roscoe Pito in northern California and wants him ready for route stakes.

"He seems to like bigger tracks," Snow said. "He's 2 for 3 at Emerald Downs."

Sunday's race should give Smokey Stover a good tune-up for the $50,000 Fairfax at six furlongs on Feb. 3.

The 4-year-old Smokey Stover, who has won 3 of 4 starts here, has never finished worse than second in his seven-race career.

He was second in the Saguaro at Turf Paradise in his last start when he didn't get away well and then couldn't get past front-running Sailors Sunset.