05/22/2002 12:00AM

Sir Alfred returns in short field in feature


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Stakes winner Sir Alfred makes his 4-year-old debut in Friday's feature race at Bay Meadows.

He will face four rivals in an $80,000 optional claimer at one mile on the main track. Among those he'll face is Hoovergetthekeys, who raced against him five times last year.

Sir Alfred hasn't raced since finishing third in an allowance race at Golden Gate Fields on Dec. 16.

"We didn't want to over-race him as a 3-year-old," trainer Chuck Jenda's assistant Bill Patterson said.

"In the middle of the year, we made that decision. After he won the Ascot [a Grade 3 $100,000 turf race at Bay Meadows on June 10], we decided we'd run him while he was doing well."

Although Sir Alfred did not win again last year, he never failed to pick up a check in five more starts and placed in the Half Moon Bay and the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Derby.

"The horse was doing fine, but it was mostly [owner] Simon Yu's idea to put him away for the winter," Patterson said.

Although Sir Alfred won his lone start over this track last spring and has two wins and a third in four starts at the distance, Patterson is cautious heading into Friday's race.

"Ideally, we could use another work for him," Patterson said. "He's worked four three-quarters. The ideal situation would be to work him one more time and then get a race in 10 days, but this is a very short category. This might be our only shot for a while.

"There's a race next Thursday at Hollywood Park, but what if that didn't fill?

"The other option would have been the Foster City Stakes [on the turf Saturday], but that would be a tough comeback spot to make your debut against your elders.

"The horse is doing well, and this is a good place to get a start into him."

Rounding out Friday's field are Prodigious and Anstar, who come out of the April 28 San Carlos Handicap, and late-blooming How Bout Jose, who has never finished off the board.

Spinelessjellyfish vs. Native Desert?

Saturday's Foster City Handicap, a $55,000-added, 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds and up, attracted 24 nominations, including long-time rivals Native Desert, a California-bred earner of over $1 million, and Spinelessjellyfish, who was recently sold in the Bart Heller Estate dispersal sale.

Ninebanks and the much-improved R McLennen, who has won three straight, are the top locally based nominees.

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