01/23/2003 12:00AM

Familiar rivals are longshots no more


Martha's Music and Pass the Virtue split a pair of decisions when the two 4-year-old fillies were longshots in stakes. Their odds figure to be much shorter for the rematch in Saturday's $50,000 Nellie Morse at Laurel Park.

Last June at Delaware Park, Pass the Virtue shocked five rivals at 36-1 in the $175,000 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup, earning a career-high 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Martha's Music finished 17 lengths behind, beating only one horse.

But when they faced each other again nearly six months later in the Grade 3 Anne Arundel at Laurel, Martha's Music delivered the best performance of her career. Lightly regarded at 10-1, Martha's Music used a sweeping move under jockey Stewart Elliott to overtake pacesetter Pass the Virtue, an 18-1 shot, and win by three-quarters of a length. Martha's Music was awarded a 92 Beyer, matching the career-best number she earned in an allowance last spring.

Martha's Music, based at Philadelphia Park with trainer John Servis, is 2 for 2 shipping to Maryland for stakes. In addition to the Anne Arundel, she beat three rivals in the off-the-turf Martha Washington last summer.

Martha's Music and Pass the Virtue should vie for favoritism with Hunka Hunka Lori Z in the seven-horse field for the Nellie Morse.

The 5-year-old Hunka Hunka Lori Z won four races in Maryland last year, including a decisive score in the seven-furlong Stefanita in November that earned her a 100 Beyer.

"She's a temperamental mare but she seems to run for me," said jockey Mario Pino, who has ridden Hunka Hunka Lori Z three times, with a pair of wins and a second. "Sometimes she has speed sometimes she doesn't, but she is really doing well, and if we break well and the race sets up like I think, we have a shot."

The surprise package could be Annatoga, a 6-year-old mare who has been the odds-on favorite in her last four starts - three of them wins. Annatoga, who has won 11 of 38 lifetime starts, is versatile enough to win either on the lead or from slightly off the pace. Although Annatoga hasn't raced since November, she won three times coming off layoffs last year. She is unproven against stakes-caliber horses, however.

Blue Hills, fifth in last year's Nellie Morse, has won two of her last three races at Laurel, where she has a record of 5-3-1 in 12 career starts. At her best, the 5-year-old Blue Hills is fast enough to compete with this group.

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