08/05/2003 11:00PM

Harty cool on import's chances

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Firth of Lorne, the runner-up in the French 1000 Guineas in 2002, makes her American debut in a $63,000 optional claimer on turf at Del Mar on Friday.

But trainer Eoin Harty is reluctant to predict victory, worried that the Del Mar turf course could work against her running style.

Firth of Lorne is a closer, and the course has produced more front-running winners than Harty likes to see.

"The way the turf course has been I would not like my chances," he said. "The horses on the lead are winning. If I were a handicapper, I would take that into consideration before wagering heavily on Firth of Lorne."

Despite his concern, Harty has the most talented filly starting in a field of eight over 1 1/16 miles.

Firth of Lorne has not started since finishing second to Zenda in the French 1000 Guineas in May 2002. Firth of Lorne won her first two starts, including a minor stakes, at 2, and launched her 3-year-old season last year with a third to Sophisticat and Dublino in the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte. Both later won important stakes; Dublino taking the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

Friday's field is not loaded with speed.

Alozaina, second to Spring Star at Hollywood Park on July 13, will be well bet. Stakes-placed at 3, Alozaina won an allowance race at Hollywood Park in June. Esmay, an Australian import who was sixth in her U.S. debut on July 28, might set the pace.

In earlier races on the card, trainer Mike Machowsky will try to extend his four-race unbeaten streak to six with two starters. The streak began on July 31 with Miss Sand Bar and continued last weekend with wins by Southern Image, Leprechaun Kid, and Master of the Sea.

In Friday's second race, Machowsky starts Sulzano in a $32,000 claimer over a mile on turf. Sulzano finished sixth in a $40,000 claimer on July 17 and is winless in four starts since arriving from England.

Machowsky is more optimistic in the sixth race about the chances of We Have a Problem, a first-time starter owned by veterinarians Joe Cannon and Barry Grant. Cannon is Machowsky's father-in-law.

We Have a Problem was ready to start last fall before being sidelined.

"I think he'll run well," Machowsky said. "I think 6 1/2 furlongs is a good distance for him."

We Have a Problem has seven opponents in Wednesday's sixth race, including Beau Soleil, who will go favored after losing a maiden race by a neck on July 24.