02/25/2003 12:00AM

Turf could be key for Cycle of Life

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ALBANY, Calif. - Thursday's feature race at Golden Gate Fields offers bettors a test in turf pedigree handicapping.

The one-mile race for 3-year-old maiden fillies is scheduled for the grass. Only two of the seven fillies have run on the turf before, and both of those only once, in a Nov. 27 race that came on a turf course labeled good. The course on Thursday will again be on the soft side after rain earlier in the week.

The likely favorite is Can I Call You Dad, trained by Brent Sumja, who bred and owns the filly with Dr. Robert Domush and Clay Murdock.

Can I Call You Dad has started twice, finishing fourth in her debut over a good track at six furlongs on Jan. 2 and second as the favorite at one mile on Jan. 31. Her performance in the mile race was given a 73 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest number earned by anyone in this field.

Can I Call You Dad has enough turf influence in her pedigree that Lee Tomlinson, whose ratings appear in Daily Racing Form past performance, has given her a solid 355 mark on the turf. She also has the highest Tomlinson for the distance, with a 370.

A Classic is the filly with the highest turf Tomlinson at 395. She tried the turf one time, and the race was a disaster. She was never within 10 lengths of the lead at any call. It was also the only race in which she wasn't entered for a claiming tag.

The most interesting filly in the field is Cycle of Life, who has not finished within 10 lengths of the winner in five dirt races since being claimed for $12,500 by owner-trainer Frances Henderson on Aug. 19.

Cycle of Life, by 1997 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Spinning World, has a higher turf Tomlinson (360) than Can I Call You Dad.

Cycle of Life ran a smasher in her turf debut. She stalked the pace and closed a bit late, finishing third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Maddie's Charm and a head behind Artist's Studio.

Maddie's Charm won a stakes race in her next start, while Artist's Studio beat Cycle of Life among others in a maiden race on the slop in her next start.

Cycle of Life seems a good play but a turf play only.

Starship Smokester, also trained by Sumja, who claimed her for $40,000 on Jan. 19 at Santa Anita, also has a good turf Tomlinson (340). She will make her turf and route debut here, and she also has the second-best distance Tomlinson (360) and perhaps the most speed in the race.

Jacobs Smile, Conquestress, and Tell No Tales all have sub-300 turf Tomlinsons.