04/16/2002 11:00PM

Tempting steps up off hot debut

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Did trainer Dennis Hopkins steal a race last time? Or did Tempting, who will make the second start of her career in Friday's co-feature at Bay Meadows, surprise him?

"It's a combination of both," Hopkins said of Tempting's seven-length victory in her racing debut at age 4 in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for $12,500 maidens on April 7.

"The filly had a few problems in the past, and we weren't sure exactly what she would do. It turned out she's as good as we thought."

Friday's six-furlong race is a step up for Tempting. It's a starter allowance race for older fillies and mares who have run for a claiming tag of $32,000 or less.

She will face four rivals, including the speedy Miss Skagit State and Crown of Creation, who has never finished worse than second in three career starts.

"She had a lot of simple things but they kept recurring," Hopkins said of Tempting. "She had been with [trainer] Carla Gaines down south, but they took her back to the ranch. I guess they sent her up here because they thought it would be easier."

Hopkins said that when he got Tempting, he tried not to rush her, and worked her slowly to build a solid foundation.

"We took our time and kept a good eye on her," he said. "I thought she was a pretty nice filly and that she had plenty of speed."

Tempting took the lead and quickly built a 2 1/2-length lead with a 21.78-second opening quarter in her debut. She extended the margin to four lengths with a 44.63-second opening half, and coasted home by seven lengths in 1:03.21.

"We figured we'd give her a good shot to build her confidence," Hopkins said. "We didn't think we'd lose her, since she was a 4-year-old making her debut. It was a free shot."

Friday's race isn't a free shot. It will tell Hopkins and owner John Harris a lot more about Tempting, a daughter of Moscow Ballet.

* Friday's feature is a $40,000 optional claiming race for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Four of the seven entrants, Gottalovefaith, Court's In Session, Nick N Court and Holy Gate, come off victories.

Ten nominated for San Jose Stakes

Ten 3-year-old fillies were nominated for Saturday's San Jose Stakes, a $55,000-added, one-mile race.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer nominated three, including Lost at Sea, winner of a one-mile allowance race in her last start. Stakes-placed Daddy's Gold and Genteel World, who has won two straight on the turf, are also nominated.

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