03/02/2005 1:00AM

Second back may be a charm

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - How many races does it take for a comebacker to attain proper fitness?

That's a question that handicappers weigh almost daily and one they must answer in Friday's Bay Meadows feature, a $40,000 starter allowance at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, which drew a field of seven.

is making his third start off a layoff, which often produces a peak performance. Came From Paris and Golazo are both making their second starts off a layoff.

The one to beat, however, may be Military Rhythm, who ran second last out in a six-furlong sprint on Feb. 3 after a 10-month layoff. Sometimes a big effort in a comeback is draining and causes a horse to run poorly the second time out. But one race may be just right for Military Rhythm, who has not been rushed back after that strong comeback effort, in which he took the lead in the lane but was outfinished late.

has had three works since that race, two of them six-furlong bullet drills.

On Friday, Military Rhythm will be stretching out from a sprint to a route and switching from dirt to turf. He faced a similar scenario last year, when he stepped up for a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance after winning his maiden in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint on dirt. He made a strong four-wide move into the lane and hung a bit late that day, but seemed to have no trouble with the grass or the distance.

Friday's race has plenty of depth, and Military Rhythm will likely offer a good price.

, who closed strongly in his turf debut, steps up for this and will probably appreciate the added distance.

Gillespie has been a factor in his first two starts off a layoff, finishing third and fourth, and he should be a contender here.

Point Breeze, stepping up off a strong maiden victory, is another who could be a factor as he makes his turf debut.

* Apprentice jockey Freddy Fong Jr., who started a five-day suspension Wednesday, lost an appeal on a stewards' ruling in Chicago and has been given an additional 10 days.

His suspension at Bay Meadows came for his ride aboard Swiss Exchange on Saturday, when his mount was disqualified from first to fifth after "altering course near the quarter pole without sufficient clearance, causing interference," according to the ruling.