05/08/2009 11:00PM

Blue blood vs. scrappy talent

Benoit & Associates
Carlsbad (above), daughter of a $2,000 Arizona sire, faces the well-bred Witty on Sunday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Silver spoon or bargain basement? They are the only reasonable choices Sunday at Hollywood Park, where majestically bred Witty and humbly bred Carlsbad meet at seven furlongs in the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Nine entered the Railbird, but make no mistake - it is a two-horse showdown between unbeaten fillies with opposite backgrounds and exceptional ability. Witty, by $150,000 stallion Distorted Humor and a half-sister to Well Armed, sold for $400,000 as a yearling.

Carlsbad is by the $2,000 Arizona stallion Rocky Bar, and began her career with four wins at Turf Paradise, including three stakes. Carlsbad, 5 for 5, enters the Railbird off a sensational March 29 win in the Grade 3 Santa Paula Stakes. Her only knock is a gap in her workouts from April 15 to May 3.

"I wouldn't worry about it," trainer Ral Ayers said. "She's fit, she's going in sharp."

Ayers is substituting for trainer Jeff Mullins, whose suspension from a security barn infraction at Aqueduct ends Sunday. If Carlsbad runs as well at Hollywood as at Santa Anita, she can win the Railbird under Tyler Baze. In the Santa Paula, Carlsbad earned a 103 Beyer Figure setting a wicked pace.

She will be hounded by Witty, who scored a smashing debut victory and an impressive allowance win.

Minor problems delayed the start of Witty's career.

"She shin-bucked, she popped a splint, a few things one after another set her back," trainer Richard Mandella said.

It turns out the wait was worth it. Witty won both starts by more than three lengths. She rallied from slightly off the pace in her debut, and showed the ability to withstand a hot pace in her front-running second start. She ran fast both times - earning Beyer Figures of 92 and 97.

Victor Espinoza rides Witty, a small-sized filly with a pedigree to run long. Mandella did not discuss her spring-summer campaign beyond Sunday. "We're taking it one step at a time," he said. "Hopefully we'll be dreaming after this race."

The Railbird leads to the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on June 7. The 1 1/16-mile Oaks was expected to be the next start for Melair Stakes winner Pretty Unusual. However, she entered the Railbird with Rafael Bejarano.

The other starters are speedball Strawberry Tart, Will O Way, Lady Lumberjack, Ultra Blend, Music Magic, and Burg Berg. The $100,000 Railbird is race 8 on a nine-race card.