06/28/2006 12:00AM

Tapped hints he can win debut


PLEASANTON, Calif. - A strong maiden race tops Friday's Alameda County Fair race card.

The 5 1/2-furlong race offers a mix of everything from first-timers to some consistent runners that have been knocking at the door.

The first thing to catch the handicapper's eye is the sizzling 1:11-flat six-furlong work by Tapped at Bay Meadows on June 18.

A $40,000 purchase at an Ocala 2-year-old sale last spring, was a May foal and was given plenty of time to grow and mature for his debut. Tapped has not missed a beat for trainer Brian Koriner and looked very good the day he was let loose.

Two other first-timers, , who drew the rail, and Vaderator, both have also worked nicely for their debuts. But there's plenty of proven competition for them to beat.

Sterling Image showed little in his two starts last year but set the pace in his return to action earlier this month at Hollywood Park. He was favored and gave a strong performance before losing a photo.

He was claimed from the race for $25,000 by northern California's leading trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, who has given the gelding three half-mile drills since the race.

The question about Sterling Image is whether the last is an indication of a new level or came because he was able to establish a lead against what for Southern California is a low-level claimer.

was the runner-up against winners in his past two sprint starts and was part of a contested pace in a route against winners last time.

"I had been pretty confident he could go long, but I guess after two poor tries at distances, he'll stick in sprints for the time being," trainer Dennis Patterson said.

Brite Gem returns to his preferred distance here and also adds blinkers, which he has worn during recent drills after seeming a bit unfocused in the recent route try.

, who has a pair of bullet drills since his last start, comes north for the first time and returns to a sprint.