05/29/2001 12:00AM

Comeback pair a quandary


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The favorite in race 4 has not started in eight months. The pacesetter in race 7 has been off a year and a half. On Thursday at Hollywood Park, handicappers face a dilemma: current form or ancient history?

Maganda will be favored in race 4, a two-other-than filly-mare sprint that is her first since September. Candy Lonely will set the pace in race 7, a three-other-than filly-mare turf route that is her first race since November 1999. In their first starts back, their trainers do not expect them to be short.

Bruce Headley trains Maganda, a 5-year-old who sustained a hock injury last fall. Maganda, 2 for 3, has been working fast; the six-furlong race is not a prep.

"I train them to run a top race first time back. Whether they do or not is up to them," Headley said.

Five fillies and mares will challenge Maganda, whose main threat will come from Miss Belle O.

Trained by Paul Schiewe, Miss Belle O will be returning to the Hollywood Park main track for the first time since a highly rated allowance win last May. Her workouts suggest that she is ready to fire, also.

Based on pace and speed figures, little separates Maganda and Miss Belle O, daughters of Olympio. The best gamble? The higher price.

The issue of current form is more complex with race 7 comebacker Candy Lonely, an import from Brazil who developed into a consistent allowance filly in late 1999. Following a nonwinners-of-two win, Candy Lonely was foiled three times in graded stakes. She emerged from the Grade 1 Matriarch in late 1999 with an injury that required 18 months on the shelf.

While declining to provide specifics, trainer Kim Lloyd said he has not been overprotective. "I haven't gone easy on her, I have not babied her," he said. "I wanted her to be able to withstand racing. I have purposely trained her hard."

Candy Lonely, 3 for 10, is ready. "She's crying to run, she acts better, she acts more mature and stronger," Lloyd said. "But that long layoff, she might need a race. The way she's acting, I don't think a gorilla could keep her off the pace, and they say speed doesn't hold."

He is right. Of the 18 turf races this meet at 1 1/16 miles, only one was won by the pacesetter. If Candy Lonely tires, the race will unfold perfectly for co-favorites A La Reine and Garden in the Rain.