09/15/2001 11:00PM

Dena's Diamond may sparkle in Marian


PHOENIX, Ariz. - For some horses it's a matter of maturity. For others it's finding their niche. It appears Dena's Diamond has found both, and the resulting strong form sends her into Monday's featured CTBA Marian Stakes at Fairplex as the likely favorite. The 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-old California-bred fillies offers a purse of $50,000 and has lured a field of


Dena's Diamond was hardly spectacular when she debuted for trainer Caesar Dominguez this spring sprinting at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. But when Dominguez sent her long - 1 1/16 miles, the trip she gets here - she flourished. She graduated with ease before finding winners a bit too much to handle.

After that loss at Hollywood June 17 she tried turf in the Cal Sires Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood. She was an excellent second, missing by a nose. Dominguez knew the breakthrough was at hand. She came back going a mile at Del Mar to beat starter allowance foes by three, then beat optional $32,000 claimers by a nose going 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar Aug. 25.

She leaves from post No. 4 under Tyler Baze.

Her main challenge figures to come from Re Vote, a Leonard Duncan trainee who has enticed Garrett Gomez in for the ride. Re Vote has been rock solid, winning four of 10, winning sprinting and routing, on both surfaces. She comes off a good runner-up try on the turf at Del Mar vs. nonwinners-other-than foes. Previously she was third in the Fleet Treat, a stakes event at 7 furlongs at Del Mar, but prior to that won at this trip over Cal-bred allowance foes. She leaves from post No 2.

The other three all merit respect as well. Thewholebag was third in the grassy Solana Beach at Del Mar last time, and before that fourth vs. $150,000 optional claiming foes. She's been primarily racing on turf, but of her four career wins, two have come on dirt.

Spiderette hasn't been a factor in three straight Del Mar turf races, but the Ed Moger-trained miss had previously won two in a row routing on the dirt at Bay Meadows.

Always the Lady could be set for improvement. She just finished eighth beaten 12 lengths in the Foothill here September 7, but that marked her first race since finishing a dull ninth when well bet (7-2) in the G3 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita in January. She'd previously won the Cal Breeders Championship at Santa Anita so the Don Warren-trained miss figures to appreciate having a race over the track, a race under her belt, and a return to facing Cal-breds only.