01/28/2005 12:00AM

Stalking is ideal for 'Buzzard'

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ALBANY, Calif. - Nine fillies and mares will compete in the $100,000 Brown Bess Handicap on Sunday as the Golden Gate Fields fall-winter meeting ends.

The 1 1/16-mile turf race lost its Grade 3 status this year, but it boasts a quality field headed by Hoh Buzzard, a Grade 2 winner at Churchill Downs.

Also entered are Uraib, winner of the Hillsborough Handicap on turf last fall at Bay Meadows, and Beaucette, runner-up in the Golden Poppy Handicap, also at Bay Meadows last fall.

heads the list of locally based entrants and has already won the Star Ball Handicap on turf at this meeting.

When Frisco Belle won the Star Ball, trainer Greg Gilchrist downplayed her chances beforehand, saying it was only her second start off a layoff and that she probably needed the race.

After the victory, he displayed a Cheshire cat grin - and heads into Sunday's race saying many of the same things.

"The one thing we know when we lead her over is that she'll always give her best," he said.

Although she is a multiple stakes winner with a $216,310 bankroll, Frisco Belle is dubbed an underdog by Gilchrist, who says he wants to find out if she is good enough to run with the Southern California invaders.

Frisco Belle did not fare well in her last start, which was on the main track, but Gilchrist is confident she will run better Sunday and likes her chances to fire late.

"I think the breeding shows she's better on the turf," he said.

, the race's highweight, has speed and figures to get a good stalking trip behind Marty's Zee, who can be tough to beat if allowed too easy a lead.

Stalking could prove ideal for the Irish-bred Hoh Buzzard, who has one win - the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere - in five starts since she arrived in the United States from Europe in 2003. This will be her first U.S. start in a non-graded race.

As she makes her move, Hoh Buzzard should be able to get the lead in the stretch, but then it becomes a matter of holding off her primary rivals.

* The Sonoma County Fair has named Corey Oakley as its new fair manager. Oakley replaces Jim Moore, who is retiring after 18 years as the fair's manager. Moore was instrumental in installing the turf course that should make its debut when the fair opens in July.