05/24/2005 11:00PM

Taking a shot against Baffert horse

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ALBANY, Calif. - That trainer Bob Baffert has entered stakes-winning Courageous Act in Friday's claiming feature at Golden Gate Fields is surprising for several reasons.

Courageous Act is a $500,000 purchase by Bob and Beverly Lewis, and was on the periphery of the Derby trail last year. He won the San Pedro at Santa Anita and was second to Sir Shackleton in the Derby Trial and later ran second to Swingforthefences in the Iowa Derby.

Nevertheless, makes his 4-year-old debut here Friday in a six-furlong sprint with a $25,000 claiming tag.

From a betting perspective, he seems to be one to pass on despite his class. The distance of Friday's race is probably too short for him, and he has not started since December. His works, though, are solid. Baffert's ROI with horses coming off a 61- to 180-day layoff is $1.65.

Although this is a big drop in class for Courageous Act, he is meeting a very tough field. Both Con Quixote and Sempai are stakes winners sprinting, and both have a prep under their belts after long layoffs.

could be the one to beat despite drawing the rail in the field of six. He returned from a 10-month layoff on May 8 and finished sixth in a $50,000 optional claimer at five furlongs on the turf at Bay Meadows. That day, he was outrun early on a yielding surface, forced to go four wide on the turn, and finished evenly without being pressured. The race should set him up well against this field, and he has proven much more effective on the dirt.

may be a bigger question mark after fading badly in his April 17 comeback following a 10-month layoff. Working in his favor, though, is his love for this track - he has five wins, three seconds, and two thirds in 11 starts here.

Danzhound, who won at this level two back, Boldandahalf, and Colonel Courtney round out the field.

Baze to be honored

Jockey Russell Baze, who began the week only 16 victories shy of becoming only the second jockey in history with 9,000 victories, will be honored at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday. The track will present Baze a special award and show a video presentation on the ontrack video system.

Baze will sign autographs next to the winner's circle from 11 a.m. until noon.

Baze surpassed Bill Shoemaker for second on the all-time victory list here Jan. 22. He trails only Laffit Pincay Jr. (9,530) for most wins all-time.