08/17/2002 12:00AM

Turf co-features evenly matched

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A pair of contentious allowance races scheduled for the turf serve as Monday's co-featured events at Saratoga as Travers week starts with a stakes-less nine-race card.

The sixth race, at a mile on the inner turf, drew a field of six, plus one main-track only entrant (Critical Eye).

Trainer Christophe Clement sends out the probable favorite in Step With Style, who drops into allowance company for the first time in more than a year. She comes out of a third-place finish in the Rockingham Breeders' Cup Handicap, one of two stakes she won in 2001.

"We were boxed in a little bit at the quarter pole," Clement said about this year's Rockingham Breeders' Cup. "She finished up nicely, she's trained well here, let's go."

Though Mystic Lady has made a career out of winning off-the-turf stakes, she has run well on the turf. As a 2-year-old, Mystic Lady won a 1 1/16-mile turf race by a neck over Saratoga's turf course. At 3, she finished third in the Lake Placid Handicap here.

Jerry Bailey has been named to ride for trainer Mark Hennig.

Nouvelle could offer some value in the sixth race as she makes her first start since finishing fourth behind Tates Creek in a classified allowance race on July 6. Trainer Del Carroll said Nouvelle underwent surgery to correct a breathing problem following that race.

"We did a little laser surgery on her and everything went well and we're ready to get back in the pool," Carroll said.

The eighth race, at 1 1/16 miles over the Mellon Turf Course, drew seven for turf and one-main track only (Diversa).

Wander Mom, who finished second at 45-1 in last year's Lake Placid Handicap, makes her first start since May 25, when she finished second in Calder Breeders' Cup Handicap.

According to trainer Eddie Plesa, Wander Mom missed three weeks of training, and with the extreme wet weather in south Florida this summer, he elected to ship the filly to Saratoga.

"She's been training really well up there, and we were just look for an easier spot to get her started," Plesa said from Florida.

The horse to beat in the eighth may be Zeta, who comes off a front-running victory in a third-level allowance race at Arlington on June 12. Pat Day rides for trainer Elliott Walden.

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