02/03/2005 12:00AM

Two hope to step up in Seabiscuit

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Seabiscuit Breeders' Cup Handicap at Bay Meadows could be a landmark for two of its entrants.

Eight runners entered the 1 1/16-mile race, including Desert Boom, a sharp claimer moving up for trainer Art Sherman, and Freddy, an Argentina-bred trained by Donald Burke who is still looking for his first U.S. victory.

Sherman said he wavered on whether to run Desert Boom before he and owner Robert Bone made the decision.

"I think the horse is sharp right now. He's on his game," Sherman said of Desert Boom, who is 2 for 2 since Sherman re-claimed him for $32,000 from a win Nov. 7 at Hollywood Park. "He's running out of options. Some of the other races he might run in don't seem to go. If there were 10 or 12 entered, I might sit there and look for another conditioned race. This is an opportunity to run for 100 grand, so we've got to take a shot. I don't think he's outclassed the way the race comes up."

seemed to be a confirmed front-runner before his last start, a 1 1/16-mile $50,000 optional claimer in the slop Jan. 7 at Golden Gate Fields. He got into early trouble and was eighth in the early going before rallying to win by two lengths.

"I was shocked the way he ran," Sherman said. "I thought he might be one-dimensional. I couldn't believe the race. I hadn't seen a horse win from that far off the pace. As he rallied, I said, 'That can't be this horse. Either the track moved him up or he has a new lease on life.'"

While Desert Boom comes into the race sharp, Freddy enters as something of an enigma. He was 5 for 6 in his native Argentina, winning three Grade 1's - including one in his second career start - and a Grade 2. He twice defeated Pellegrino, who won the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup for Burke in his last start.

Injuries, however, have slowed Freddy's progress. He was kept on the sidelines for more than 18 months before his U.S. debut in July and then for another four months when he suffered a minor ankle injury.

finished strongly in his last race Dec. 16, placing third in his third start in the United States. Burke said Pellegrino also lost his first three U.S. starts.

"I'm encouraged by his last race," Burke said of Freddy. "John Wooden used to say you play the way you practice. He's practicing very well. If he runs like he's working, he'll be tough. The best distances will be farther for him. If he runs a big one here, there's a longer race we might be looking at next month," he said, referring to the Santa Anita Handicap.