12/18/2002 12:00AM

Tracemark's vacation over


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Tracemark needed a summer vacation after he finished sixth in last July's Swaps Stakes, his worst performance of a stakes-winning, seven-race campaign in the first half of the year.

"He had some foot problems," trainer Craig Dollase said. "He needed a freshening and was tailing off. The last race wasn't him."

The vacation is over. On Friday, Tracemark returns in a $58,000 allowance race at 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park. Owner Edward McGrath and Dollase are hoping the race will lead to lucrative stakes at the upcoming Santa Anita meet.

"I'd like to get a good tightener in him," Dollase said.

Tracemark drew the rail and has only four opponents - High Wire Act, Sigfreto, Last Parade, and Climay. Tracemark will be favored.

The lightly raced High Wire Act is winless in three starts dating back to an optional claimer at Santa Anita in January 2001. Sigfreto won the Phil Shepherd Stakes at Fairplex Park in September, but has lost three consecutive races.

Last Parade and Climay will be longshots. Last Parade has been unplaced in all 10 starts this year.

Climay is making his United States debut following a Group 1 win in Argentina in August. South American imports often need a start and several months to acclimate to U.S. racing, however.

Tracemark has won 2 of 16 starts and $292,044. On Friday, he is racing over his eligibility as the race is for non-winners-of-four, but Dollase liked the timing of the race and the small field size.

Friday's surface conditions are uncertain with a strong possibility that rain could hit Southern California on Thursday night. An off track wasn't a concern for Dollase.

Last spring and summer, Tracemark raced at a level just below the top 3-year-olds. Following a win in the California Derby at Bay Meadows, Tracemark finished second in the Lone Star Derby and the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Tracemark, a gelding, typically came from well off the pace, but raced near the lead in the Affirmed Handicap when he finished second to the accomplished Came Home.

A big performance on Friday could lead to a start in the $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes on Jan. 11 and the $400,000 Strub Stakes on Feb. 1.

"He looks better than ever," Dollase said. "I think he'll give a good account of himself. He's got the credentials to run big here."

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