11/30/2004 12:00AM

Ward saddles two threats on turf

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ALBANY, Calif. - Six 3-year-olds running for a $40,000 claiming tag will get Thursday's card at Golden Gate Fields off to a fast start in the first race when they meet in the day's feature at one mile on the turf.

Trainer Dennis Ward sends out an uncoupled entry with Rare Request and Fanteria in the competitive race.

Rare Request is one of three members in the field with a turf victory, while Fanteria is making his first start on the turf.

Rare Request may end up being the speed of the race, but Ward is making an equipment change, removing the gelding's blinkers.

"I want to take him back a bit," Ward said. "I want to cover him up. His best races have always been from off the pace. Taking the blinkers off will help him relax and settle down early."

Thursday's race presents a problem for Ward because Rare Request may find himself on the lead naturally, even with the blinkers coming off. Rare Request has arguably the best speed in the field.

Recent maiden winner Copper Mist has some speed and has run on the lead in the past. He sat close to the pace last time out, when he finally earned his maiden victory in his 17th career start.

"Rare Request has caught a couple of fields recently where he's been on the lead because no one else wants it," Ward said. "It looks like that may happen here."

Atlas Peak is also trying two turns and the turf for the first time. He, too, may be part of the pace picture despite sitting off the pace in sprints, including his maiden victory in his last start.

Fanteria arrived in Ward's barn this fall after scoring stakes victories at Elko in Nevada and Sandy Downs in Idaho.

An Idaho-bred, Fanteria has three wins, three seconds, and a third in eight starts this year, including a second in a $25,000 claimer at Bay Meadows. He sat off the pace in stalking position and closed nicely in a fast heat, impressing Ward.

"He's got a foot the size of an elephant, and sometimes that makes for a good turf runner," said Ward, explaining the decision to try Fanteria on the turf. "He's a big, long, airy-going runner who covers a lot of ground."

If Fanteria can adapt to the turf, he could be the one to beat off his impressive northern California debut.

Epic Power, who beat eventual Bay Meadows Derby winner Congress-ionalhonor in a $40,000 optional claimer on the turf at Bay Meadows in September with a strong late run, is another logical contender.