12/26/2002 1:00AM

Golden Marlin's rise is really a drop


At first glance, Golden Marlin appears to be making a class hike with a move from an allowance race into Saturday's $50,000 Gowell Stakes at Turfway Park. In fact, she is making a class drop.

Though she faces 11 opponents - including stakes winners Jenny's Prospector and Indy Fire - none is of the quality of the allowance foes she raced against last month at Churchill Downs. Competing in an entry-level allowance, Golden Marlin rallied to finish a distant third behind Lady Tak and Perfect Story, two gifted 2-year-old fillies.

Lady Tak, who beat Golden Marlin by 6 1/4 lengths, is unbeaten in two races and had won her only previous start by 11 3/4 lengths. Runner-up Perfect Story is a promising John Ward-trained half-sister to Point Given.

Confirming the strength of that race was a fast time. Lady Tak blazed six furlongs in 1:09, and Golden Marlin - despite losing - earned an 87 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest figure of any Gowell starter.

Additionally, Golden Marlin's third-place finish was visually striking, as was her maiden win in her only other start, on Nov. 17. She closed from the rear half of the pack, and was one of the few fillies keeping pace with Lady Tak and Perfect Story in the stretch.

Any reasonable pace in the six-furlong Gowell should set up her rally.

If Golden Marlin has weaknesses, they are a lack of seasoning and early speed. Wildcat Annie has no such issues. Having already run in five races, she has an experience edge over many of her opponents, and her early speed should put her on or near the pace.

She used that front-running style to win an allowance at Turfway in September, and she led through portions of the subsequent Arlington- Washington Lassie and Hoosier Debutante.

The one-mile Lassie proved beyond her scope, but when returned to six furlongs in the Debutante, she held on well until fading to third. Tony D'Amico has the mount.

Jenny's Prospector proved too much for Wildcat Annie at Hoosier. Showing a new off-the-pace style, she took advantage of an inside trip and rallied for a 1 3/4-length victory.

Following that stakes victory, Jenny's Prospector must spot most of her opponents weight under the allowance conditions of the Gowell. She carries co-highweight of 122 pounds, while Golden Marlin and Wildcat Annie each carry 116.