05/19/2005 12:00AM

Yerba Buena sets up well for Pickle


ALBANY, Calif. - First Draft, Marla Bay, and Pickle, who ran one-two-three within a neck of each other in the Miss America Handicap at Bay Meadows on April 9, renew their rivalry Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

The three met once before, in a March allowance at Bay Meadows, also finishing one-two-three, with Pickle beating First Draft and Marla Bay third. But a pair of new faces in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile turf race and the prospect of a very fast pace make it unlikely that the same three will form another trifecta.

With an abundance of speed in the field, First Draft and Pickle should get good trips. finished third in the Miss America and then won the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap at Hollywood Park on April 23.

Sandy Shulman, who trains Pickle, thinks Pickle can make amends for her Miss America loss.

"Hopefully, we'll rectify things," said Shulman. "You obviously want to believe something happened when you lose like we did up here. She was between horses, and I don't know why she didn't go through."

As for First Draft, her trainer, Steve Miyadi, said: "She always tries. She's an overachiever."

loves the lead, but may not be able to get it with the presence of Midwife, a stakes-winning speedster breaking from the rail; Platinum Princess, who is making her turf debut; and Ramatuelle, an unbeaten Chilean-bred.

And that doesn't even factor in , a winner of two Grade 1's in her native Brazil, who will be making her U.S. debut.

Midwife was little more than a cheap claimer until trainer Jedd Josephson put her on the turf and she turned into a monster. She won her first three turf starts, including the Palo Alto Handicap, and made her presence felt in the Sunshine Millions and Grade 2 Santa Barbara, where she was 10 in front after six furlongs of the 1 1/4-mile race before stopping badly and finishing far behind the winner, Megahertz.

"I knew when she opened up that much so early, it would be difficult," Josephson said.

Midwife won't open 10 here.

"There's a lot of speed in there," Josephson said. "We'll see what happens."

The speed could make it tough on Marla Bay, who put together back-to-back wins this year.

"She deserves a chance," said trainer Bill Morey Jr., who added that Marla Bay's jockey, Frank Alvarado, thinks she can rate.

That could be her best strategy, because Platinum Princess will also probably be gunning early. Ramatuelle also has early foot, although this is the stiffest test of her career.