12/16/2006 1:00AM

Expectations high for Marieval

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OLDSMAR Fla. - When owner John Cummins purchased a maiden New York-bred filly named Marieval in January the hope was she would develop into a stakes runner on turf.

On Tuesday, Marieval, a daughter of El Prado, will attempt to get back on the road toward stakes company when she heads an overflow field of 13 fillies and mares entered in the day's optional claiming headliner at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Marieval made her first start for Cummins and trainer Joan Scott here at Tampa Bay in April, finishing third. For her next start, she moved to Mountaineer Park, where she won her maiden on the main track. Off from June until August, Marieval rallied from just off the pace to win a New York-bred allowance race on the grass at Saratoga, then finished fourth to No Reason in the New York Oaks at Finger Lakes.

More recently, Marieval was eighth in the Terreavigne, an overnight stakes for New York-breds, over yielding turf at Belmont. In her last start she was off the board in a tough allowance route at Churchill.

"She's a nice, big, strong filly and enjoys training," Scott said. "We've been hopeful that with time she'll develop into a solid stakes-caliber filly. She'll run all day and, in fact, may be even better at distances longer than a mile and a sixteenth. But this will be a good first step."

Marieval has two sharp workouts locally, breezing a half-mile in 49 seconds on Dec. 4, then posting a bullet five furlongs in 1:02 on Dec. 11. Scott said Marieval has been sharp in her training for this first start of the new meeting.

Daniel Centeno will ride Marieval at 116 pounds.

Link to the Past, who romped by seven lengths over allowance foes at Hawthorne in October, could be a threat under Jose Lezcano. Early Hatch, trained by Graham Motion, has won 3 of 6 starts this season.

* The equine herpes virus that disrupted racing in New Jersey this fall is having a ripple effect at Tampa as horses exiting that state have to wait two weeks after being inoculated with the herpes vaccine before they are permitted to enter the grounds to train and race here. Partly because of this, the number of entries is expected to rise in the next two weeks, with quality also improving.