03/08/2005 12:00AM

'Willie' lands in easier spot

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Say Hey Willie, who set the pace in the Rare Treat Handicap on short rest last time out, may be the one to catch as she drops back to a second-level allowance in Thursday's featured eighth race at Aqueduct.

A field of nine, including the Tom Bush-trained entry of True Gold and Judy Soda, entered the mile and 70-yard race for older fillies and mares.

Ernie Paragallo's Paraneck Stable has long since wrapped up the top owner award at the winter meet, helped along by Say Hey Willie, who won her first pair of two-turn starts by a total of 14 lengths at the turn of the year for trainer Jennifer Pedersen.

Pedersen last week appealed a 60-day suspension when a routine barn search found what officials termed "improperly labeled injectibles" in a barn office refrigerator.

may be tested early by Game Card, who stretched out to two turns in her last start and posted a wire-to-wire victory against nonwinners-of-two allowance foes. The Allen Jerkens-trained Game Card drew the rail and may try to reprise those front-running tactics.

went two turns for the first time in her career last time out, rallying from far behind to challenge for the lead before settling for second. She makes her third start back from a layoff, and would benefit if a duel develops up front.

steps to the next condition after a first-level allowance score. She has been first or second in three of her four starts at the meet, earning the three best Beyer Speed Figures of her career.

"She's a hard-knocking filly and I expect her to run good," said her trainer, Robert Bailes, who has had a strong winter meet. "It seems like the more I run her, the tougher she's getting."

Bailes, who has 6 wins from 18 starters heading into the final scheduled week of racing on the inner track, also sends out Absolute first time off the claim in the sixth race, a 1 1/16-mile starter allowance for 3-year-olds who won their maidens for $50,000 or less.

Absolute will have to overcome the outside post in a field of nine.

"I like him," said Bailes of Absolute, who was claimed from a $35,000 sprint victory. "He's a horse I had been watching for a good while. He's doing pretty doggone good right now."