10/17/2002 11:00PM

Two newbies make Russell go


SAN MATEO, Calif. - After attracting only three runners when originally scheduled last weekend, the Charles Russell Handicap will be run Sunday at Bay Meadows with six entrants.

The six-furlong, $60,000-added stakes race for fillies and mares was aided by the entry of a pair of local runners who had not been nominated the previous week.

Posadas, winner of the Bangles and Beads at Fairplex in her last start, and Onslaught, a runner-up in her past two starts in stakes to Channing Way, loom the probable favorites. But both Bullish Miss and Gifted Daughter are legitimate contenders.

Bullish Miss comes off a third-place finish in the Autumn Leaves Handicap, a one-mile stakes race on Oct. 6.

Trainer Steve Specht did not nominate Gifted Daughter to the Russell when it was originally scheduled on Oct. 12 because she had run for the first time since March 23 only eight days earlier - when she was seventh in the Soviet Problem Handicap.

"I didn't nominate the first time because it was too close," Specht said. "I'd prefer another week and another work."

Gifted Daughter was a wire-to-wire winner in a $40,000 optional claimer on Oct. 4.She won so easily that Specht was willing to come back 16 days later.

"We freshened her up," he said of the layoff. "There was really nothing wrong. The owner just felt she needed time off."

Although Specht believes, in retrospect, that her competition wasn't that tough, he does believe Gifted Daughter ran "a pretty good race."

Running on a speed-favoring track, Gifted Daughter found herself on the lead despite a 22.95-second opening quarter. She opened up with a 22.44 second quarter and came home in a good 23.70 final quarter.

"It was a good starting point," he said. "It didn't take much out of her. The only reason she was tired is we never got back [to Golden Gate Fields where Specht stables his horses] until midnight because of the Friday night racing."

Specht knows Sunday's race will probably not find Gifted Daughter on the lead in the opening quarter, but that's fine with him.

"She runs her best when she's just off the pace," he said.

"It's going to be a little more difficult this time around. This will be a little saltier competition, but I'm expecting her to run a good race."

o A Breeders' Cup handicapping seminar will be held Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at the Sports Bar at the north end of the Bay Meadows mezzanine.