12/26/2007 12:00AM

Gayego both sharp and speedy

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Paulo Lobo was excited about the prospects for Gayego before the 2-year-old colt made his debut in a maiden race at Hollywood Park on Nov. 18.

Gayego won by three lengths.

Lobo's enthusiasm has not wavered as Gayego prepares for his second start in Friday's second race at Santa Anita.

"He was working very well before the race and he confirmed to me what I was expecting," Lobo said. "Since that race, he's been doing great."

Gayego is likely to be favored in a $52,000 first-level allowance race for 2-year-olds over 6o1/2 furlongs. The race has drawn a field of six, including the recent maiden race winners Belafonte and Reflect Times.

Gayego, who will be ridden by Mike Smith, breaks from post 2 and will play a prominent role from the start. In his maiden race over six furlongs, Gayego fought for the lead throughout before drawing off.

Lobo expects Gayego to be on or near the lead in Friday's race. With the exception of Gone Grand, who has set the pace in his last two starts and then faded through the stretch, there is little speed in the field.

"He needs to improve," Lobo said. "It won't be an easy race. It's a small field, but a first -condition allowance race is never easy."

Lobo said he thinks Gayego will be best in races up to a mile in 2008.

Belafonte is the biggest threat to Gayego. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Belafonte beat maidens by 2 1/4 lengths over six furlongs at Hollywood Park on Dec. 8 in his second start. He rallied from fourth before drawing off in the final furlong.

"I liked what I saw," Drysdale said. "I'm pleased with him since the race."

Reflect Times is one of a few Japanese-bred runners trainer John Shirreffs has in his stable. Owned by Koji Maeda, Reflect Times beat maidens at Del Mar in a 17-1 upset on Sept. 1, but has not started since. He has worked steadily since late November.

Gone Grand, Drewthegentlemen, and Rivergrade Boy ran in stakes in recent starts, but fared poorly.

Rivergrade Boy is the only two-time winner in the field, having won a maiden claimer in May and a starter allowance race in October.