12/19/2005 1:00AM

Diplomat Lady wins Starlet, causes carryover

Diplomat Lady (right) holds off Balance to pull an upset in the Grade 1, $457,000 Hollywood Starlet on Sunday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Diplomat Lady seized the lead soon after the start, repelled an early challenge from speedy Meetmeinthewoods, then safely held off favored Balance in the stretch to score a 39-1 upset in the Grade 1, $457,000 for 2-year-old fillies on Sunday at Hollywood Park.

The victory keyed a pick six carryover of $147,515.05 to Monday's closing-day card at Hollywood Park. Because Monday is the final day of the meet, the pick six will be subject to a mandatory payout.

Diplomat Lady, with Tyler Baze aboard, won by a half-length over Balance, with Sabatini closing belatedly for third. Meetmeinthewoods, the second choice, finished fourth in the field of 11. Diplomat Lady paid $80 to win, the highest payoff in the history of the Starlet.

After setting fractions of 23.38 seconds, 46.63 seconds, and 1:10.96 for the first six furlongs, Diplomat Lady completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:43.89.

The victory was the first in a Grade 1 race for trainer Chris Paasch, who trains privately for owner Charles Cono. For Paasch, Diplomat Lady salvaged a year that he admitted was 'horrible.'

"It's been a horrible year," said Paasch, who has been training since 1984 and has been on the Southern California circuit for the past few years. "When you've been 20 or 25 percent up north, when you're sitting on 10 or 12 percent for the year, and you try to tell your owner you're doing OK, it's a hard sell. There's a limited number of options after you break your maiden with a young horse. After the first condition, you have to go into stakes, and these stakes are as tough as any in the country."

Diplomat Lady, a $400,000 auction purchase in February, was a winner of her debut at Hollywood Park in June, then disappointed in a pair of stakes at Del Mar. Paasch said she had a lung infection exiting Del Mar. Diplomat Lady did not return until Nov. 12, when she won a first-level allowance race at Hollywood. She is now 3-for-3 at Hollywood Park, and 1-for-1 around two turns.

With the short run to the first turn of the Starlet, Diplomat Lady benefited from having post 2. Private World and True Xena, the first two finishers in last month's Moccasin Stakes, were drawn wider and were carried wide on the first turn. Balance was only three paths wide on the first turn, moved up to challenge Diplomat Lady entering the far turn, but could not overtake the front-running winner.

"This is very uplifting," Paasch said.