03/31/2003 1:00AM

Stakes on tap early as meet opens


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Bay Meadows opens its 55-day spring meeting Wednesday, and several of the meet's top stakes are scheduled for April.

A field of at least nine older fillies and mares is likely for the first stakes of the meet, Saturday's $75,000 Miss America Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The probable starters include Little Treasure, trained by Laura de Seroux, and the locally based Lindsay Jean, who won the Palo Alto Handicap last spring over the course for trainer Art Sherman and is coming off a victory in the $100,000 Brown Bess Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

Three-year-olds will compete in the $100,000 California Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 12. The race likely will feature three locally based runners: Winning Stripes, Eye of the Tiger, and Tiz a Coup.

Northern California's highest-graded race, the Grade 2, $200,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile, will be held on April 26. Last year, the race drew Decarchy and Sarafan, who were ranked the top two turf runners at the time by Daily Racing Form.

Sixteen stakes are scheduled for the meeting, including four that are graded. In addition to the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile, three Grade 3 races will be run.

They are the $150,000 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for fillies and mares May 24; the $100,000 Seabiscuit (formerly the All American) at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds and up on the main track May 26; and the $150,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint at six furlongs for 3-year-olds and up June 7.

Wednesday's card includes full fields of 10 in two maiden races and the day's feature, a one-mile allowance race for fillies and mares on the turf. But the horse population is a question because many Washington-based horses are returning home for the start of the Emerald Downs meeting.

The first northern California 2-year-old race of the year was run last week at Golden Gate, and more 2-year-old races will be run at Bay Meadows.

In Wednesday's feature, Sunset Serenade comes north from Southern California. She has been running from off the pace and might like the turf course here, which has played tough on front-runners in the past.

Sunset Serenade's toughest foes could be Lacrystal Classic, a wire-to-wire victor in a starter allowance on the Golden Gate turf last out; Vamos Nina, who was nominated to Saturday's Miss America; and recent maiden winner Enjoy.

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