10/02/2008 11:00PM

Class edge to Bai and Bai in Matron

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Bai and Bai had been through the wars last fall by the time she ran in the $150,000 California Cup Matron. Making her ninth start of 2007, she was never close to runaway winner Romance Is Diane and finished a weary second.

Trainer Craig Dollase freshened Bai and Bai for three months, and when she won her second start of 2008, she was on her way to re-emerging as a leader in the California-bred filly-mare division.

Then the wars began again. Bai and Bai suffered a severe bout of colitis, was hospitalized for a month at Chino Valley Equine Medical Center, and returned to Dollase in summer, facing an uncertain future.

"Each day, she just got better and better," Dollase said, and the 5-year-old mare returned from a six-month layoff Sept. 7 at Fairplex Park. Her rider, Aaron Gryder, cut her loose into the far turn of the $63,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes, she opened up by four lengths, and won by 1 3/4 lengths.

Gryder said the declining margin was exactly what it appeared.

"She got a little tired, but it had been six months since she ran," he said.

Now that Bai and Bai has had a prep, she is favored to win the $150,000 Matron, race 3 on Saturday's California Cup card. The race is easier this year without Romance Is Dianne, who will face males later in the $250,000 Cal Cup Classic, but Bai and Bai will not get a free pass in the 1 1/16-mile Matron.

Six fillies and mares face Bai and Bai, whose 10-for-24 record and $667,618 earnings make her the class of the field. But upstart sprinter Barbara's Love poses a formidable challenge on the lead, and late-runners Spenditallbaby and Film Editor will run from behind. Stroppy and Famous Ruby also entered.

Barbara's Love was a pure sprinter when owner Roddy Valente and trainer Bill Spawr claimed her Aug. 21 at Del Mar. As Spawr recalled, the 3-year-old filly was too keen for her own good.

"Unless she harnessed her speed, two turns would be too far," he said.

"[Valente] claimed her to run long - he said with her pedigree she should run long."

It would be up to Spawr to teach her to relax, and a month later at Fairplex, she did just that. Running in a first-level allowance sprint, Barbara's Love sat just off the pace and motored home a 2 1/2-length winner.

Spawr had one question after for jockey David Flores. "Will she route?"

Flores replied, "Do route her."

Sired by Benchmark, Barbara's Love is less accomplished than multiple stakes winner Bai and Bai. However, Barbara's Love carries 113 pounds to 121 for the favorite, and she could be loose up front.

"I think she will be gone," Spawr said.

Spenditallbaby had an easy prep race a week ago, but her last six starts have been below par.

Film Editor will be picking the leaders up late.