03/21/2003 12:00AM

San Dare will stay closer to pace

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - San Dare rallied from last to win both the Grade 3 Honey Fox and The Very One handicaps here earlier this winter. But trainer Rick Hiles and jockey Mark Guidry may have to employ an altogether different strategy if San Dare is to continue her winning ways in Sunday's $200,000 Orchid Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

The Grade 2 Orchid attracted a field of nine older fillies and mares, the majority of whom - like San Dare - are at their best when racing from behind.

Hiles is not about to have San Dare get caught lagging too far off what may be a pedestrian pace.

"A lack of pace is always a concern when you get into races at a mile and a half," said Hiles. "But this filly is pretty versatile. Mark knows her well and knows how much horse he has under him. And if the pace is too slow, she'll be laying a lot closer on Sunday than in her last couple of starts. The first time she went a mile and a half she raced just off the pace, made the lead at the top of the stretch, then got a little tired. And she's in much better form now than she was at that time."

Hiles was referring to the Dowager Stakes at Churchill Downs on Oct. 13 when San Dare was outfinished by Lapuma. After finishing second and third in two subsequent starts to close out her 2002 campaign, San Dare shipped to south Florida where she has been explosive winning the Honey Fox and The Very One.

San Dare will carry high weight of 119 pounds in the Orchid, conceding from three to eight pounds to her competition. Her most dangerous rival is Tweedside, a long-distance specialist, who could not fend off San Dare after drawing clear near midstretch in The Very One. Tweedside won the Grade 1 Coaching Club America Oaks going 1 1/2 miles over the main track during her 3-year-old campaign.

Stay Forever stretches out beyond nine furlongs for the first time in the Orchid after winning the Sunshine Millions Turf and finishing a troubled fourth in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Handicap earlier in the meet.

"She's bred to go that far but she's never been three turns and has to prove she can get the distance," said trainer Marty Wolfson. "I don't see much pace in the field other than Tweedside, and if there's not [too much pace] we should be laying close."

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