11/17/2004 12:00AM

Worth far more than $10K now

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CHICAGO - In claiming a lower-level racehorse, you're lucky to get what you pay for. As often as not, a $10,000 claim will wind up running for some lower claiming tag in order to bring home a win check.

Those hopeful tales of plucking a diamond from the rough? Rarely happens.

But it has happened with Seattle Lake, a 5-year-old mare who was claimed for $10,000 in October 2003 at Hawthorne. The first thing her new connections - owner Nick Angelou and trainer Frank Randazzo - had to do was sit on her: Seattle Lake needed some R and R.

"Mr. Angelou trusted me to do what needed to be done with her," Randazzo said.

Finally back to the races in April, Seattle Lake has been on an upward trend ever since. She won for $10,000, then $14,000 and $18,000. After a late-summer freshening, she showed up at Hawthorne on Oct. 3 and won a $25,000 claimer, and came back three weeks later to win easily for a $35,000 tag. Make it 5 wins in 9 starts this year for Seattle Lake, who has banked almost $70,000 - a fine claim indeed.

She is back here again Friday in the featured third race - a race very much like the one won here Oct. 27. The six-furlong sprint is carded for third-level allowance horses or $35,000 claimers such as Seattle Lake, who won last time by four lengths while ridden out, and faces no rivals of superior quality this time.

"I've been really happy with her," said Randazzo. "She's given me everything she has."

Randazzo said Seattle Lake "had some injuries when we first claimed her," and not all has been smooth sailing. For starters, Randazzo is based downstate at Fairmount Park, and that is where Seattle Lake was supposed to do much of her running.

"Unfortunately, she doesn't like Fairmount," Randazzo said. "She can't get any grip on the track."

So, five times in the last six months, Randazzo has loaded Seattle Lake into a horse trailer and driven 4 1/2 hours to Chicago, all for little more than a minute of actual competition. "A horse like that makes it worth the trip," he said.

was the even-money favorite in Seattle Lake's last win, but finished a distant second. She failed to show her typical early speed that day, but may do so this time from post 1. The other five horses all would need something near a career-best effort to topple the streaking Seattle Lake.