08/26/2002 12:00AM

Slight edge to Tradition Rocks

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The steadily improving Tradition Rocks, who soundly beat maidens in his last start here on Aug. 4, heads a field of first-level allowance horses in Wednesday's featured seventh race at Del Mar, in which five of the eight runners are coming off victories against maidens.

Of those five, however, Tradition Rocks could go favored in the one-mile turf race. He already has a win over this course, his Beyer Speed Figures are among the best in the field, and he hails from the barn of Bob Baffert, who is the leading trainer at this meet, and whose horses are usually strongly supported.

In the case of Tradition Rocks, the support is justified. He has thrived since moving to the turf following a lone start on dirt. Tradition Rocks narrowly lost his first time on turf, when he also stretched out around two turns for the first time, but he showed a new dimension in his latest start, when he settled behind the leaders and then closed sharply.

"He should be a good one down the road," Baffert said Monday morning. "He's been training great since his last race. I was thinking of running him in a stakes race, but I decided to give him more time."

Marshall Rooster, who defeated Tradition Rocks by a neck at Hollywood Park on June 22, is one of several other contenders in this field. Marshall Rooster has not raced in two months, whereas Tradition Rocks has the benefit of a recent race here.

Rushin' to Altar, a cleverly named colt by Pulpit out of Russian Bride, should attract plenty of support based on his highly rated victory against maidens on the dirt here on Aug. 3. Rushin to Altar received a Beyer Speed Figure of 103 in that six-furlong race, in which he added Lasix after finishing second in his debut.

Rushin' to Altar has never raced beyond six furlongs, or on the turf, but he is held in high regard by trainer Ron McAnally and his staff.

"Ronnie wanted to run him long and on the turf. He should be able to handle it," said Dan Landers, McAnally's assistant. "His first race was good, and his other race was real good."

Lennyfrommalibu was a runaway winner against California-bred maidens on Aug. 12. This will be his first start against open company, though he benefits by having raced around two turns previously, as well as on turf.

Well Struck beat maiden-claimers in his second start. With his sharp speed, and inside draw, he could make the early running.