04/01/2002 1:00AM

Short fields look par for meeting

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Bay Meadows begins its 55-day spring meeting Wednesday with a card filled with short fields, which may become typical of the meet.

The eight-race card attracted only 57 entries, including just five in the day's feature, a one-mile $50,000 optional claimer on the turf for older fillies and mares.

Racing secretary Greg Brent is cautiously optimistic about the prospects for the meeting, which usually suffers from the departure of Washington- and Canada-based horses early in the meet.

"Entries at Bay Meadows can be a bit tougher because there's more involved [in filling the races than at Golden Gate]," Brent said.

The Bay Meadows barn area has 900 stalls, compared with 1,400 at Golden Gate Fields.

"A number of larger stables are at Golden Gate Fields," Brent said. "At Bay Meadows, they have to ship and run, and that has an effect on entries.

"What has happened this year is that some stables have been allotted 10-15 stalls at Bay Meadows, and they will use a portion to get horses over early. That may increase the participation of those stables a bit."

Last year, trainers Brent Sumja, Lonnie Arterburn, and Don Roberson left northern California before the start of the Bay Meadows meeting. Arterburn is staying in northern California this year, and Sumja said he planned to race horses at the meet.

Cliff Delima, who went to Prairie Meadows two years ago but stayed in northern California last spring, is going back to Prairie Meadows this year.

"You hate to lose any trainer, but Cliff has a very active stable. He runs a lot," Brent said.

Caryn Keller plans to bring horses to Bay Meadows from New Mexico, and Oregon-based trainer Jonathan Nance has brought horses to northern California. Several Washington-based trainers are leaving some runners here with other trainers.

F. Jack Liebau, president of Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, was pleased with attendance and handle at Golden Gate and hoped that would carry over to Bay Meadows.