04/27/2006 11:00PM

Bai and Bai now a known threat


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Northern California-based Bai and Bai snuck into Southern California last November and scored an 8-1 surprise in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. The win stamped her as a division leader, and blew her cover. returns south for the $200,000 Melair Stakes on Sunday at Hollywood Park, and by now, she is too good to sneak up on anyone.

Bai and Bai is one of three co-favorites in the Melair, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old California-bred fillies that goes as sixth race on the 10-race Gold Rush card. Nine fillies entered the Melair, including She's an Eleven and Chosen Royalty, who are Bai and Bai's main rivals

Compared with the Cal Cup, the Melair purse is high, Bai and Bai's odds are low, and her competition is tougher.

"It's always tough when you're running for $200,000," said trainer William Delia. "We've been pointing to this race for a long time."

A daughter of Falstaff, Bai and Bai was purchased for just $3,200 at a Pleasanton yearling sale in September 2004. Delia said he could hardly believe the price. "I said there's got to be something wrong with her," he said. "We certainly didn't think she was this good."

Bai and Bai won her second start, a $32,000 maiden claimer at Bay Meadows last August, and continues to improve. She has won 4 races and $165,223 from 9 starts, and in her last start, the San Ramon at Golden Gate, she missed by a nose to Press Camp, who is bound for the Kentucky Oaks. The 89 Beyer Speed Figure that Bai and Bai earned in the San Ramon is close to the Melair par of 92.

Roberto Gonzalez rides Bai and Bai, who has been training at Hollywood for more than a week.

The most likely winner of the Melair, however, is She's an Eleven. Sired by In Excess, She's an Eleven put it all together March 2 at Santa Anita, winning a maiden race by 11 1/4 lengths. It was her third race at a mile and fourth start of the meet.

"I ran her one extra time, because she had been so unlucky," said her trainer, John Sadler. "She could have won any one of those three races."

In her two previous one-mile starts, She's an Eleven broke slowly and ran second Jan. 22 and made a premature move and finished second Feb. 5. Last out, as the 1-10 favorite in a five-horse field, she won with an 86 Beyer.

Chosen Royalty finished third in the Grade 3 Providencia on turf April 8. She won her first two races sprinting on dirt. Other contenders include stakes winner Seam Seeker and the improving claimer Marcia-marciamarcia.