03/16/2005 12:00AM

Darn That Girl takes big drop

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Darn That Girl concluded her 2-year-old campaign against Grade 1 competition. She will begin her 3-year-old season meeting much softer first- level allowance opposition Friday at Gulfstream Park.

, a daughter of Darn That Alarm, finished fourth in the one-mile Matron and a tiring sixth in the 1 1/16-mile Frizette, both Grade 1 races, before going to the sidelines during the fall of 2004. A precocious filly, Darn That Girl began her career in impressive fashion, earning Beyer Speed Figures of 88 and 89 finishing second and then winning her maiden in five-furlong sprints at Belmont early at 2.

Darn That Girl has been preparing for her return at Palm Meadows under the guidance of trainer Rick Violette and comes into Friday's 6 1/2-furlong race off a bullet half-mile work of 48 seconds, the fastest of 36 at the distance on last Friday's tab.

"She's training great," Violette said. "She's kind of a light filly so there's only so much we can do with her in the morning. She was probably a little overmatched in her last two starts. She's pretty fit, but if she has to run all the way she might need a race."

Darn That Girl will likely have to beat Stephie's Cat, Exit to Heaven, and Mertie M. if she's going to get her 3-year-old campaign off on a winning note.

, part of an uncoupled entry with Western Princess from trainer Stan Hough's barn, finished second to the undefeated Letgomyecho on Feb. 6. Letgomyecho flattered that effort when she returned to win the Forward Gal Stakes here earlier this month.

Stephie's Cat began her career with trainer Ronny Werner but was transferred to Hough following her 3-year-old debut. A daughter of Catienus, she has continued to work steadily at Palm Meadows since her last start.

was heavily backed to begin her career and justified the confidence by overcoming early trouble and rallying to a 1 1/4-length maiden win here on Jan. 23. Jerry Bailey guided Exit to Heaven to victory in her debut but has taken the call on Darn That Girl and will be replaced Friday by John Velazquez.

Mertie M., outgamed by Snug Harbour under similar entry-level allowance conditions on Feb. 25, dons blinkers for the first time after turning in an extremely fast half- mile gate work at Calder last Saturday.