03/30/2005 12:00AM

Turf always draws a crowd


SAN MATEO, Calif. - The popularity of the turf course is clearly evident on Friday's Bay Meadows card.

On a day when no other race drew more than seven runners, the 7 1/2-furlong allowance feature on the grass drew 12 horses, including two also-eligibles.

Turf races have filled more easily than dirt races during the meeting. And when races have come off the turf, it has been disastrous. Wednesday, two turf races drew seven and nine entrants. When the races were switched to the main track, four scratched from each race, limiting one race to win wagering only.

Friday's feature should be an interesting affair. Sixty Two Lincoln steps up seeking his fourth straight victory. Rare Request, Hoax, and Dad's Lessons, who is on the also-eligible list, are bidding for repeats.

Sixty Two Lincoln, Hoax, and Rare Request were entered on March 24 but scratched when the race was taken off the turf. All three should be strong contenders here.

Sixty Two Lincoln has won three straight, moving up from the $6,250 claiming level to $16,000. He hasn't run since recording a career-best 90 Beyer on Jan. 19 but has worked nicely in the interim while waiting for a turf race to fill.

While his past two victories have been wire-to-wire scores, Sixty Two Lincoln started the streak by sitting just off the pace early and taking over down the backstretch. He will be on or near the lead here under jockey Roberto Gonzalez.

"Gonzo lets him break, and, if nobody goes, he goes," trainer Bill McLean said. "But he lets him run free and gets good position."

Rare Request and French Roast could provide pace competition, as could Dad's Lessons, if he draws in.

Hoax, who will be running late, just won for $32,000, beating the tough Love That Man. He draws the outside post but should be able to get over early and tuck inside off the pace.

Also Friday, six fillies and mares meet in a one-mile allowance race on the main track.

Class Edition, who has hit the board in 9 of 10 starts here and comes off a solid win in a $25,000 claimer, figures tough right back.

Santa Anita import Garden Whimsy, bred to love a mile, and Talega de Oro, who seeks her third straight victory, appear the main competition.