01/11/2008 12:00AM

Soft spot for comebacks turns salty

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When trainer Roger Hansen dropped Tribesman’s name into the entry box for Sunday’s opener at Golden Gate, a $40,000 classified allowance event at six furlongs, odds are he thought it would be a fairly safe spot for the 4-year-old gelding to make his return after a couple months on the bench. That’s also probably what trainer Greg Gilchrist was thinking when he popped Vicarino’s name into the race for that runner’s first start in just over a year.

So, instead of finding a fairly comfortable spot for their respective comebacks, these two are on a collision course Sunday. The presence of four other solid veterans doesn’t make things any easier, either.

Tribesman blossomed this past summer for Hansen. He romped over maidens at the Bay Meadows Fair on Aug. 19, earning a 90 Beyer. He lost in his first try against winners, at Bay Meadows, but soared afterward. He romped over allowance foes there Oct. 6, won by nine over optional claimers there Nov. 4 for a 100 Beyer, and then easily won the Sausalito at Golden Gate on Nov. 23 for a 95 Beyer. Tribesman posted a bullet work of 56.80 seconds for five furlongs at Golden Gate on Jan. 1. That came on the heels of a Dec. 22 five-furlong bullet there in 58.60 and a Dec.?8 bullet half in 45.40. Chad Schvaneveldt, aboard for those last three wins, has the call again from the rail.

Vicarino romped in his debut, which came at Santa Rosa in August 2006. He missed by a nose in his first try against winners, which came at Golden Gate a month later, but then won the Harvest Festival at Fresno by 11 with a 95 Beyer and backed it up with a 1 3/4-length win in the Stinson Beach at Golden Gate on Jan. 1, 2007, earning a 96 Beyer.

Vicarino hasn’t run since that race, and like Tribesman he has worked in dizzying fashion for this race, posting three bullets: 1:13.40 for six furlongs at Golden Gate Jan. 3, 1:11.20 for six furlongs there Dec. 27, and 57.40 for five furlongs Dec. 13. Russell Baze, aboard for his last three starts, has the call. He and Gilchrist are 6 for their last 13 (46 percent) together at Golden Gate.

If one of the comebackers isn’t ready, the current form points to Full Power Ahead. He comes off two smart wins this meet, posting Beyers of 92 and 94. Mario Gutierrez rides for Frank Lucarelli.