02/05/2008 12:00AM

Vicarino may have needed his last

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Jockey Russell Baze and trainer Greg Gilchrist agree on one thing: With a prep race under his belt, Vicarino will be the horse to beat in Thursday's Bay Meadows feature, an $80,000 optional claimer at six furlongs.

Vicarino, under Baze, ran third chasing Tribesman at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 13, in his first race since winning the Stinson Beach Stakes on New Year's Day 2007. The 4-year-old colt sat second behind Tribesman and tired a bit late, with Full Power Ahead rallying to edge him for second. Tribesman, who set a Tapeta record of 1:08.32 in the six-furlong Sausalito Stakes at Golden Gate last November, stopped the clock in 1:08.34.

Vicarino has worked twice since then: a brisk five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Jan. 27 that was third best of 44, and an easy 49 half-mile on Sunday.

"He should improve," Gilchrist said.

Vicarino, who drew the rail in the field of five, will be the heavy favorite. Also in the race are the multiple stakes winner Double Action, who drew post 5; Jack Hes Tops, a stakes winner at Sunland who hasn't run since March 18; Tribesman's stablemate Restless Youth, who comes off a $50,000 optional claiming victory; and Izzacopy, last behind Tribesman in January in his first race off a layoff.

Baze said he pushed Tribesman as much as he could with Vicarino while trying to save some horse.

"It didn't cost me the win, but it did cost me second," he said. "You can't train a horse to win his comeback when the winning time is 1:08."

Baze said he liked the way Vicarino relaxed during Sunday's work.

In his career, Vicarino has five wins, a second by a nose, and the third-place finish in his last start. He has two stakes wins and set the track record of 1:07.34 for six furlongs at Fresno in winning the Harvest Festival Futurity as a 2-year-old.

Double Action's last victory came last September in the Pirate's Bounty, a six-furlong sprint over the Del Mar Polytrack. In his last two starts, both in December, Double Action tired and finished seventh in the Impressive Luck down the hill at Santa Anita and fifth in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood on the Cushion Track at Hollywood.