Updated on 09/15/2011 12:17PM

Channing Way looks hard to beat

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Channing Way, an Arizona filly who showed she belonged in the big leagues when she won the $150,000 Melair at Hollywood Park on April 28, rates as the one to beat in the $60,000 Miss California Stakes at Bay Meadows Sunday.

The Miss California is a six-furlong race restricted to California-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Channing Way, trained by Dan Morgan, began her career at Turf Paradise, winning four of her five starts there, including three stakes. She won each of those races by 6 1/2 lengths or more. Her only loss was a third-place finish over a "slow" track in her second career start.

She made her California debut in the Melair, which was restricted to California-bred 3-year-old fillies. Sent off at 6-1 in a six-horse field despite her unblemished fast-track record, she dueled for the lead every step, always racing on the inside or between horses, and prevailed by a nose.

The main threat to Channing Way on Sunday is probably Bafferta, who was fourth in the Melair at 8-5 but was only 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner at the end. Bafferta, trained by Bill Spawr, did not have an ideal trip in the Melair. She was in a bit tight on the rail and was bumped on the backstretch, stayed on the rail all the way, made a strong bid in midstretch, but hung late. That ended a string of five straight races in which she had improved her Beyer Speed Figure. Laffit Pincay, Bafferta's regular rider, will accompany her north.

Another who must be strongly considered is the lightly-raced Exquisite Woman. The Richard Mandella-trained filly won her debut, then finished second in a pair of allowance races. In the first of those allowance races, she was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Bafferta. In both of those races, she dueled for the lead virtually every step.

Lumpkins holds his lead

Jason Lumpkins and Russell Baze each won two races Thursday, leaving Lumpkins with a 55-49 lead over the perennial northern California riding champion going into Friday night's races.

Lumpkins won the first and third races to briefly open an eight-winner lead. In the fifth, Baze on Bullish Miss and Lumpkins on Bar Breeze were head and head at the eighth pole, but Bullish Miss inched away from there to win by a length and keep Baze from falling nine back. Baze also won the eighth.