02/08/2005 1:00AM

Smoocher should get better setup

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Razen Hazen and Smoocher, who ran one-two on Jan. 20 at Golden Gate Fields, renew their rivalry in Thursday's Bay Meadows feature. The race is a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs.

Now 4-year-olds, both were stakes winners as 2-year-olds. Razen Hazen won the Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes at Santa Rosa in his second career start, and Smoocher won the Grade 2 Grey Breeders' Cup at Woodbine. While may be better suited for longer distances. But even though this race is at six furlongs, Smoocher may be able to turn the tables after losing by a half-length in their previous meeting.

In that race, Razen Hazen was able to open on the turn and got a breather into the lane before holding off Smoocher's late charge. There is more speed in Thursday's race, which should put more early pressure on Razen Hazen.

Elon, making his first start in 17 months, and Kuhl 'n' Clever, making his first start in nine months, both have showed speed, and have worked well for their comebacks. Another contender, Ice Legend, also has flashed speed. All are drawn outside Razen Hazen, who is stuck on the rail and may have to gun early to get his best trip.

Smoocher stalked the pace and was shuffled back a bit on the turn in the Jan. 20 race against Razen Hazen. That was his first start in nearly eight months and his first try at six furlongs. He rallied four wide and cut into Razen Hazen's margin late in a race timed in a fast 1:08.76.

Smoocher has always been a horse with potential, said his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer.

"I think when we stretch him out he'll get better, but I want to get another sprint into him as part of his foundation," said Hollendorfer.

Smoocher has worked three times over the Bay Meadows track since his last race, which was his first race in California. His last two workouts, both of which earned bullets, were a five-furlong drill in 59 seconds on Feb. 1 and a half-mile drill in 47.40 on Sunday.

Russell Baze rode him Jan. 20 and was aboard for his workouts.

"He's definitely got talent," said Baze. "He'll fit very nicely here."

Rae's Totts and Private Aviator, like Smoocher, would appreciate a pace battle up front. Rae's Totts has raced his best at Bay Meadows, with two wins, two seconds, and a third in six starts here.