09/10/2007 11:00PM

Favorite vulnerable off Polytrack

EmailPOMONA, Calif. - If the runaway Del Mar victory last out by No Means Maybe turns out to be legitimate, she can win again Thursday when she starts as the favorite in the $65,000 Bustles and Bows Stakes at Fairplex Park.

But there is reason to wonder if No Means Maybe is as good as her last start makes her look. And if the suspicion proves true, then No Means Maybe could be headed for a low-odds defeat Thursday when she races on a conventional dirt surface for the first time.

A field of six entered the 6 1/2-furlong Bustles and Bows for 2-year-old fillies. All six are coming off Polytrack races at Del Mar. Artificial racing surfaces, mandated by the California Horse Racing Board, are changing the sport in California - for horsemen, breeders, and handicappers.

This summer at Del Mar, No Means Maybe's sire, Old Topper, emerged as a premier Polytrack sire. Old Topper's offspring won 8 races from 27 starts (29 percent). The only sire with more Polytrack winners was Unusual Heat, who had 9 wins from 58 starters (a 15 percent win ratio).

The facts do not imply that Old Topper offspring cannot run on dirt; he was a good sire before synthetic surfaces came along. But if Polytrack gave his offspring an advantage, then perhaps a return to dirt does not benefit No Means Maybe.

Doug O'Neill trains No Means Maybe, who won her debut on Cushion Track at Hollywood, lost second time out at Del Mar, then crushed $50,000 claimers last out by more than five lengths. Her 78 Beyer Speed Figure tops the field, and if she runs a similar race Thursday she can win again under Isaias Enriquez.

However, the maiden filly Harlan's Song finished second in a fast race last out, and she has the most room to improve. Trained by Jeff Mullins, Harlan's Song makes her third career start, and if she moves forward off her maiden-race second, with a 73 Beyer, she can score the upset under Martin Pedroza.

Elsie Jo will set the pace under Michael Baze. Trained by red-hot Gary Stute (4 for 7 at the fair), Elsie Jo drops out of the Grade 3 Sorrento, in which she pressed a wicked pace for a half-mile before weakening late. The Bustles and Bows is her third career start.