12/06/2007 1:00AM

Hard to get past Lexi Star in Geisha 'Cap

EmailLexi Star, runner-up in a Grade 2 stakes this past summer, brings a distinct class advantage into Saturday's $60,000 Geisha Handicap at Laurel Park.

The 1 1/8-mile race for Maryland-bred fillies and mares drew just six horses, including an uncoupled entry from trainer Eddie Gaudet.

The 5-year-old Lexi Star, the 1-2 favorite on the track's morning line, has gone 3 for 9 this season, including a dominating 6 1/4-length win going nine furlongs locally in the Maryland Racing Media Handicap in February. Three starts ago, she was second in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park.

Her trainer, Chris Grove, who won the 2004 Geisha with Silmaril, said he is cautiously optimistic about Lexi Star's chances, because she was beaten 4 1/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite in the Red Cross Stakes at the Meadowlands.

"She wasn't overly impressive last time out, so we are hiding our enthusiasm as we approach this race," Grove said. "She has been very consistent and over the last year has really grown up. She gives everything she's got, which is something she did not always do when she was younger."

Five of Lexi Star's last seven starts on dirt have produced Beyer Speed Figures between 91 and 100, which makes her a good fit in the Geisha, where the average winning figure for the last seven runnings has been a 92.

The only other horse in the field who appears capable of running close to par is the stretch-out sprinter Scheing E Jet. A 4-year-old whose best races have come at seven furlongs or shorter, Scheing E Jet will be making the second start of her current form cycle after making up nearly seven lengths in a 5 1/2-furlong optional claiming race.

Gaudet, who trains Scheing E Jet, has had good success with horses going from sprints to routes in their second start following a layoff, winning with 6 of 31 such starters (19 percent) the past two years.

Based strictly on her trainer's past success in the Geisha, Hero's Lady merits some respect as a longshot. Her trainer, Larry Murray, won the Geisha in 2003 with Cruise Along and in 2005 with Promenade Girl.

Hero's Lady, who usually comes from far back, has been freshened since a poor effort over turf on Maryland Million Day in mid-October. She did win by more than five lengths the last time she raced nine furlongs on a fast track, in a first-level allowance last March.