02/27/2008 12:00AM

Time is ripe for Ayers win


ARCADIA, Calif. - The raw statistics are somewhat misleading.

Since Ral Ayers took over trainer Jeff Mullins's operation at Santa Anita on Feb. 18, while Mullins serves a 20-day suspension, the stable has been winless in eight starts. What that statistic does not reflect is one first-place finisher disqualified for causing interference and three second-place finishes, including losses by a head and a half-length last week.

The breakthrough may come with Boule d'Or in Friday's seventh race. Claimed for $50,000 on Jan. 20, Boule d'Or returns in an optional claimer at 1 1/4 miles on turf and is entered for a $62,500 claiming price.

"I like the horse," Ayers said. "His works have been good. We don't want to lose him."

Boule d'Or was third in his last start, and is winless in seven starts since arriving from England in late 2006. He was third in the Thunder Road Handicap at a mile on turf in his U.S. debut in February 2007. Friday's optional claimer will be his longest race since he finished fifth in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Fields Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf last May.

Ayers also has Perfectly Sane in Friday's fourth race, a $20,000 claimer at six furlongs. Perfectly Sane won a maiden claimer for statebreds on Dec. 30 in his last start.

"Maybe we can win two," Ayers said.

Ayers has assisted Mullins in recent years, and will direct the stable until Mullins returns in early March.

"I have to pick up some other spots, but it's business as usual," Ayers said.

Friday's optional claimer on turf has drawn six, including Rather Be Lucky, who won an optional claimer over this course and distance in his last start on Jan. 21, and Add Heat, who was fifth in the Sunshine Millions Turf at 1 1/8 miles on grass at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26.

Trainer Barry Abrams entered Add Heat for the San Luis Obispo Handicap last weekend, but withdrew him in favor of Friday's race.

"I felt he'd have a much better chance in the allowance," Abrams said.

A winner of 3 of 29 starts, Add Heat won an optional claimer at 1 1/4 miles on the main track here in October, but has lost his last five starts.

"It's a paceless race, and I don't know how it will set up," Abrams said. "But, on paper at least, I do believe he is the best horse in the race."