02/22/2006 12:00AM

Baghdaria favored to extend streak

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Louis Hodges Jr.
Baghdaria (right), beating French Park in the Silverbulletday, returns in the Martha Washington.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Baghdaria is long on credentials, talent, and heart - three assets that could carry her to her fourth straight win Friday, when she faces 12 others in the $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies is the first of two local preps for the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy.

should go favored off her win last out in the Grade 3, $250,000 Silverbulletday at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs on Jan. 14. In that race, she grittily re-rallied to win by a head against previously undefeated Grade 2 winner French Park.

The win was Baghdaria's third straight. Her streak began with a six-furlong maiden victory at Hawthorne in November. She then won a one-mile optional claimer on the turf at the Fair Grounds meet in December, one start before making her stakes debut in the Silverbulletday.

"She's learned how to race, and just physically has gotten better, too," said Bret Calhoun, who trains Baghdaria. "That's just what you're looking for in a 3-year-old this time of year - one that's getting better every race, and that's just what she appears to be doing."

Baghdaria is quick but manageable, and she could come from off the pace Friday. She will break from post 2 under Cliff Berry.

"There's a lot of horses that have been running one turn that are stretching to two turns, so it looks like there is quite a bit of speed in there," Calhoun said. "I think she can lay off of it. Having had a couple of two-turn races, she's more willing to take back and sit off the pace. I can see her somewhere in the middle of the pack early."

, the likely second choice Friday, stretches out to two turns following a win at six furlongs last out in the $50,000 Genesis at Evangeline Downs on Jan. 27. She overcame a troubled start to circle the field and register her second straight win. Trainer Cole Norman has given the mount to Calvin Borel.

, also a contender Friday, dug in for a neck win in the $50,000 Dixie Belle at six furlongs at Oaklawn in her last start Jan. 28. Terry Thompson has the mount for trainer Larry Jones.

drew post 12 and 13, respectively, and will be grouped in the wagering as a mutuel field for the Martha Washington.