05/29/2002 12:00AM

Sumja has shot at two victories


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Brent Sumja will send out a live horse in the two best races Friday night at Bay Meadows.

Stakes-winning 3-year-old Lethal Grande will run for a $62,500 claiming price in a 4 1/2-furlong turf race, which opens the card. In the seventh race, 3-year-old Federal Highway will make his first start for Sumja in a six-furlong $40,000 optional claiming race, in which none of the six entrants is entered to be claimed.

While neither of Sumja's horses is likely to be favored, both are serious contenders.

"Lethal is unique," Sumja's assistant, Aggie Anderson, said. "He'll do anything - turf, dirt, sprint, or route. He's one of the most versatile horses I've ever been around."

Lethal Grande arrived in Sumja's barn after campaigning at Portland Meadows and winning two small stakes as a 2-year-old.

Lethal Grande set the early pace in the Golden State Mile at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 10 before fading to fifth. He then was ninth in the El Camino Real Derby, a Grade 3, a month later.

"We ran him over his head early," Anderson said.

His next two starts were in Southern California turf races, where he finished second as the favorite in a $50,000 claiming mile at Santa Anita and third at 1 1/16 miles in a $62,500 claimer at Hollywood Park.

"We didn't want to try him against older horses, so we had to ship him down south," Anderson said. "We're happy to stay at home."

The two Oregon stakes that Lethal Grande won were sprints. All his starts this year have been around two turns.

The 4 1/2-furlong race "definitely look like a specialist's race," Anderson said. "This is probably not what we ideally wanted. He has enough speed to keep in touch early, and it seems more races like this are won from off the pace than wire to wire. He'll give his best shot and make a run at it. He's an honest, hard-trying, hard-knocker who loves his job."

Federal Highway was bought in Florida, where Sumja has had great success with past purchases. He won his debut, then ran second to an eventual stakes winner in his second start.

"This is the horse we're most excited about of all the horses we got in Florida," Anderson said. "He was a private purchase, and his previous owner still owns a piece."

Federal Highway had a minor illness after arriving in Sumja's barn and hasn't shown much in the morning.

"He's a sweetheart," Anderson said. "He had a reputation as a big horse, and I think it makes our exercise riders conservative. They don't want to let him sneak away."

Anderson said the barn philosophy has never been one geared to bullet works, but in finishing strongly through the lane. Federal Highway has finished well in his works.

"We usually set them down at the eighth pole," she said. "When we do, he's made some impressive runs. He visually takes off when you ask him."

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