03/11/2008 11:00PM

Round 2 of Tribesman-Vicarino rivalry

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Saturday's Grade 3, $125,000 Bay Meadows Sprint Handicap may be Northern California's most eagerly awaited race of 2008. The race has drawn five sprinters, four of them multiple stakes winners, and the fifth stakes-placed.

But the focus is on two runners: Tribesman, who has won five straight starts, including the Phoenix Gold Cup on Feb. 16 while earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure, and Vicarino, who set a Bay Meadows track record at five furlongs despite breaking slowly last time out on Feb. 21.

The two first met on Jan. 13 at Golden Gate Fields. Tribesman was coming off a victory in the Sausalito Stakes, and Vicarino had most recently captured the Stinson Beach Stakes. The difference was recency. The Sausalito was Nov. 23, while the Stinson Beach took place on New Year's Day 2007.

Tribesman won, while Vicarino, who tried to keep him honest, tired and lost a photo for second to Full Power Ahead. But everyone looked forward to a rematch, with Saturday's Sprint the logical meeting place.

How much better will Vicarino be with another race or two under his belt instead of a year's layoff? Can Tribesman continue his front-running domination?

"Especially with two horses like this, the interest has been building the past couple weeks," said Chad Schvaneveldt, Tribesman's jockey. "This is good for racing."

Vicarino's jockey, Russell Baze, agreed, and said, "I'm very happy to be on one of the two everyone is looking at."

Vicarino's trainer, Greg Gilchrist, has experience with races that were given plenty of hype with Lost in the Fog and Smokey Stover recently, and Soviet Problem before that.

"It's exciting when you're involved," he said. "It's good for the participants. It's great for the fans."

Roger Hansen said even if he weren't training Tribesman, the probable favorite, he would consider this a must-see race.

"It's like the El Camino Real Derby," he said. "I didn't have a horse in it, but I just didn't want to miss it."

Southern California shippers look good

Miss Cozy Cat, a runner-up in her past two starts at Santa Anita, will try for her first win in a six-furlong maiden race for fillies and mares that opens Friday's card. South African Baby, another Southern California invader, could prove her primary rival.

Yerevan Storm, coming off a third in a maiden race at Golden Gate Fields, could be the best of the three locally based challengers.

Idaho Joe, a runner-up in his comeback here on Feb. 24, drew the outside post in a field of seven in a six-furlong $40,000 starter allowance.