08/28/2006 11:00PM

Sharp claimer takes class leap

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ALBANY, Calif. - It's not just handicappers who weigh the merits of sharp claimers moving up to the allowance ranks.

Trainer Andy Mathis realizes that jumping Best Tribute from $12,500 claiming company into a first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on the turf Thursday at Golden Gate Fields is a bold move despite the 4-year-old filly's four-length victory in her last start. She'll meet three allowance-type runners and a fourth that just won a $40,000 starter allowance.

But there's a method behind Mathis's presumed madness.

"To raise someone from $12,500 to allowance, there's got to be something that jumps out at you," he said.

"I thought that was a pretty good $12,500 field, and she went from last to first in a heartbeat. She gobbled up the field and won easy."

As often happens in allowance races, especially later in the year, a sharp claimer is meeting runners with more potential but not as many accomplishments.

Best Tribute has four victories, including two in four starts on turf, where she has never finished off the board. This is her first attempt in an allowance race, while some of her opponents have had several tries, and she's back at her home track after winning her last at Santa Rosa.

Minster of Joy is 0 for 4 in allowance races, comebacking Mango Kiss 0 for 2, and Jubilee 0 for 5.

"Do you go with the more talented runner or with the cheaper one who is in good form?" asked Mathis, summing up the handicapper's dilemma.

Mathis thinks this is a good spot for Best Tribute.

"She's never run a bad one on turf," he said. "If there was ever a time to try allowance company, this is it. It's kind of a win-win. We could win the race, and, if nothing else, we'll see where she really fits. But we're entering this trying to win, not to run third."

Mathis, who claimed Best Tribute for $12,500 at Santa Rosa in August 2005, said that although she's still a closer, she's been willing to sit a bit closer to the front of late.