06/05/2003 11:00PM

Trips, pace complicate puzzle

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Several contenders in Sunday's Bay Meadows co-feature had trouble in their last race. Toss in an interesting pace scenario, and the 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds becomes a most interesting handicapping challenge.

Obermeister, an $8,000 claim by trainer Armando Lage who led much of the way in the $100,000 Ascot Handicap before finishing third, likely will try to set the pace again. But the presence of Albert Slewsky means he likely will work for the lead and that could affect how much kick Obermeister has left in the stretch.

Horses who had trouble last out include Direct Male, fourth behind Obermeister in the Ascot, and Patriot Noise, second in a May 21 allowance race against similar.

Direct Male was bumped at the break in the Ascot and wound up racing wide most of the way. He ran evenly but was never a threat.

Direct Male, who defeated Patriot Noise for his maiden victory and lost a photo at this level while still a maiden, may be the one to beat.

Patriot Noise lagged behind the field in his race but made a strong move from the middle of the second turn. He was flying along the inside, but room never opened so he had to swing out. He lost momentum but re-rallied for second.

Eighteen named to Oaks

Eighteen 3-year-old fillies were nominated to Saturday's $75,000 Bay Meadows Oaks, including three strong local runners.

Can I Call You Dad, who won a $62,500 optional claimer on the turf on May 22, and Mac Melody, an Irish-bred Italian stakes winner who ran second in that that race, will renew their rivalry.

Adding presence to the local nominees is Christmas Time, a solid winner in the six-furlong Emeryville Stakes in her last start on May 17.

Stewards' rulings

Trainer William J. Morey Jr. was fined $2,500 in a longstanding matter involving a race he won on Dec. 20, 2000, with Snappy Victor. The fine was for an overage of Albuterol.

Jockey Pedro Mercado is serving a three-day suspension (June 7-11) for what the stewards ruled was "failure to make a proper effort to maintain a straight course in the stretch and causing interference" for his ride on Beaumes De Venise in last Sunday's seventh race.