01/28/2004 1:00AM

Sum Trick liable to improve


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sum Trick was in the midst of a promising 3-year-old season when he was turned out to have a bone chip removed from a knee last May.

Sum Trick returned from a seven-month layoff to finish third in an allowance race for sprinters at Santa Anita on Jan. 4. Friday, he makes the second start of his comeback against 13 rivals in a $52,000 allowance race at seven furlongs.

The allowance race could lead to a stakes start for Sum Trick.

"I was happy with the way he came back," trainer Rafael Becerra said. "It was a tough field."

has the odd distinction of winning his maiden in a stakes, the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park, in December 2002.

Sum Trick was winless in four starts last year, including a second to Kafwain in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs in February. Southern Image, the third-place finisher of the San Vicente, has won two stakes at this meeting - the Malibu Stakes and the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic last Saturday.

Sum Trick is likely to want to be close to the lead on Friday, which could pose a problem in a field that includes , Midafternoon, Royal Siphon, and Sun City Bradley, all of whom have shown speed.

In the Jan. 4 allowance race at six furlongs, Sum Trick was close to the pace to midstretch and faded in the final furlong to finish seven lengths behind Pohave. The runner-up was Sun City Bradley.

Trained by Bruce Jackson, Sun City Bradley has won twice in five starts, a maiden race in June at Hollywood Park and an allowance race against California-breds here in October. Both wins came for trainer Christopher O'Dell.

Sun City Bradley is eligible for this first condition allowance race against open company because his previous allowance win came against statebreds.

Midafternoon and Onebigbag, who won first condition optional claimers for statebreds in their last starts, are eligible under the same criteria.

Friendly Mike, fourth in the 2002 Del Mar Futurity, has not started since finishing second in an allowance at Hollywood on Nov. 28.

Royal Siphon won a $40,000 claimer on the front-end Jan. 11, ending a six-race losing streak.