09/29/2005 11:00PM

Tight Circle steps up off claim

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Lloyd Mason was glad to welcome Tight Circle to his barn after claiming the 3-year-old filly for $20,000 from her U.S. debut on Sept. 18. She won that race, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint, by a head after stalking the pace, and Mason wheels her back quickly Sunday at Bay Meadows in a first-level allowance sprint at six furlongs. The British-bred Tight Circle has four opponents Sunday and will meet older for the first time.

Mason gave credit for the claim to owners Ed and Theresa DeNike, saying he merely "looked at her when she walked over and dropped the slip."

Mason liked what he saw in the race, as Tight Circle won in her first start since July 22, 2004, when she won her maiden on the turf.

"She ran a good race and closed well," Mason said of the claiming victory.

Mason wins 31 percent of the time off the claim and has a $3.62 return on investment off such a move - numbers far above the average. Yet, he says he does nothing special with horses he claims.

"We just do our normal routine," he said. "There's no secret stuff."

Tight Circle has worked once for Mason, an easy 47.20 half-mile work on Sept. 28 at Golden Gate Fields that was the fourth best of 30 at the distance.

"This is kind of an aggressive move, but there's really no other place to run her," Mason said of the decision to run in the allowance race.

Tight Circle is a definite contender, but she'll have to catch the older Car Lady, the runner-up after tiring and squandering a big lead against similar last time. She was claimed by trainer Kent Molinaro three starts back and won a $25,000 claimer in her first start for him.

In the companion feature, a one-mile turf allowance, Cali Randi will be seeking her second straight victory. From the hot Ed Moger Jr. barn, Cali Randi won a $25,000 claimer at the same distance in her previous start.

* Francisco Duran and Frank Alvarado both begin serving three-day suspensions Sunday. They will be out Sunday and next Friday and Saturday as Bay Meadows does not race Wednesday or Thursday. Both were suspended for causing interference in the stretch.