01/22/2009 12:00AM

Filly must improve in stakes

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Fascinatin' Rhythm didn't begin her racing career until nearly seven months were gone in her 3-year-old season, and even then she was slow, beating just two horses and earning a modest 39 Beyer Speed Figure in her career debut. Each of her seven subsequent starts, however, has been faster than the previous effort, capped by a dominating 7 3/4-length win in a third-level optional $32,000 claimer at Laurel Park.

The Richard Small-trained Fascinatin' Rhythm may need to move forward one more time Saturday in order to secure her first stakes victory in the $50,000 Nellie Morse Stakes at Laurel.

The one-mile Nellie Morse, which drew a field of nine fillies and mares, also is the opening leg of the season's first Magna 5 wager.

Fascinatin' Rhythm is 4 for 6 locally, with both losses coming when she finished second last fall in a pair of stakes restricted to Maryland-breds. She now tackles open stakes company a month after scoring her most impressive victory, worth a career-best 88 Beyer.

In order to win Saturday, she probably will have to run even faster. Five of the last six runnings of the Nellie Morse have produced a winning Beyer of between 88 and 97.

Fascinatin' Rhythm's most serious challenge could come from Irvs Pick, a 5-year-old trained by Chris Grove, who has won two of the last four runnings of the Nellie Morse with Silmaril (2005) and Lexi Star (2007). Although she is based in Maryland at the Bowie Training Center, Irvs Pick has done her best racing going around two turns at Charles Town, where she has three wins and a pair of seconds in her last five starts.

The stretch-out sprinter La Bomba and Syd N Carly's Rose, whose form has gotten sharp since she was claimed by Tim Hooper on behalf of Mike Gill, also merit respect.

La Bomba, 4 for 7 lifetime locally, makes the second start of her form cycle after racing evenly in the six-furlong New Year's Eve at Mountaineer. Her trainer, Charles Schneider, is 4 for his last 13 with horses switching from sprints to routes second time back following a layoff, according to DRF's Formulator.

Gill, who won the 2004 Nellie Morse with City Fire, takes a shot with Syd N Carly's Rose, a 5-year-old he claimed for $20,000 in October. She will likely try to get loose on the lead, much as she did in a wire-to-wire win over third-level optional $32,000 claimers going a mile and 70 yards at Philadelphia Park less than two weeks ago.