02/01/2010 1:00AM

Expect She Be Wild to fire fresh


LEXINGTON, Ky. - She Be Wild, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in her last start, will be making her 3-year-old debut on Sunday at Gulfstream going seven furlongs in the Grade 2 Forward Gal. She's obviously the filly to beat as she drops in class, but will she be a good bet at low odds?

Handicappers interested in betting against her can point to the fact that all five of her previous races were run on synthetic surfaces, so she has never raced on dirt before. She Be Wild is also returning from a layoff of nearly three months, and trainer Wayne Catalano, who won with 24 percent of his starters last year, shows just 12 percent winners from a group of 34 runners returning from breaks of 61 through 180 days. She is also cutting back from a pair of 1 1/16-mile races.

She Be Wild has been training strongly on the dirt at Gulfstream. She worked a half-mile in 47.20 seconds twice, and sped through a quick five furlongs in 58.80. Based on those works, the surface switch should not be a problem. Her quick drills also undercut any question about her fitness. While Catalano hasn't specialized in having runners returning from comparable layoffs ready for a strong performance first time back, I doubt that he would bring a filly of this caliber, who has won 4 of 5 career starts, back to the races in a spot where she would be vulnerable. She was a decisive 5 1/4-length winner in her lone previous start at this distance.

I will take She Be Wild on top in the exacta, with Ailalea and Bickersons for second.

Ailalea won a key maiden race at Belmont in October, then handled the jump into the Grade 3 Tempted when she won by 1 1/4 lengths, with a 6 1/4-length gap from second to third, and a 6 1/2-length margin between the third- and fourth-place finishers.

Bickersons is a contender who should provide more betting value in the exotics. She finished a solid third in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf at Oak Tree four races ago, and won the Moccasin Stakes at this distance at Hollywood Park two races ago. She's a better filly than she showed while finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet last time, and 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies three races ago.

Sweet August Moon offers value

The Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap, also at seven furlongs, will be run at Santa Anita on Sunday. Proviso deserves top billing based on her first-place finish (disqualified to second) in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland, and her fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, but her lack of tactical speed is a concern as she cuts back in distance following two races at 1 1/8 miles.

Evita Argentina figures to be a prime contender. She won the Grade 2 A Gleam at this distance at Hollywood Park four races ago, and won the Grade 1 La Brea at this distance at Santa Anita last time. She is a deep closer, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the average half-mile fractions from those two wins was 44.98, vs. 45.68 for her sixth- and seventh-place finishes two and three races ago. The Santa Monica pace should be lively, so a good performance is likely, but it's still a concern that she will either have to hunt for racing room in this large field or give up lots of ground with a wide rally.

Sweet August Moon is an interesting possibility. She hasn't raced since April, and trainer Brian Koriner shows an ordinary 9 percent wins in that situation, but she has been working well and steadily for her comeback. She won her last three races, including the Grade 3 Las Flores going 6 1/2 furlongs in her most recent start. She loves Santa Anita's synthetic surface with 5 wins and 1 second from 7 local races, and her ability to rate off the pace but in a stalking position makes a good trip likely. If the pace is strong she will have a chance to wear down the leaders at a square price. She's my selection.