03/07/2006 12:00AM

Hoping it runs in family


ALBANY, Calif. - You can't blame trainer Greg James for hoping that lightning will strike twice with the 3-year-old filly Cascade Rain.

Cascade Rain is a legitimate contender in Thursday's Golden Gate Fields feature, an $80,000 optional claimer for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs. The race drew five entrants, and any of the five could win.

has won her only race, and James is hoping that she follows in the footsteps of her half-brother Hurricane Smoke and wins the first two races of her career. Cascade Rain, by Cascadian, is the third offspring of the unraced mare Feather'd Rain that James has trained. Hurricane Smoke earned $159,020 with a career record of 18-6-2-4. The mare Smoken Feathers won 5 of 28 starts with five seconds, four thirds, and earnings of $57,170. Both horses are by Smokester.

In her debut, a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special, Cascade Rain dueled through the opening half-mile with Place to Play before pulling clear in a strong performance under Russell Baze.

The victory didn't surprise James.

"She'd been working really, really well," he said.

While she's coming back in a tough spot - the claiming option allows multiple winners into the race - James remains confident. The owners of Cascade Rain, Rod and Lorraine Rodriguez, often move their better runners to Southern California off victories here, but James made a strong pitch to keep Cascade Rain around.

"She's training really well," he said. "She's doing everything perfect."

Hybird Diablo is the most accomplished of Cascade Rain's opponents, with three victories, a second, and a pair of thirds in six starts. Each of her losses came to stakes winners. She makes her first start since a Dec. 31 allowance victory at Bay Meadows, but she has a steady series of solid works.

, another comebacker, has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 7 starts. She has trailed Hybird Diablo twice and may be the longest shot on the board.

has won two straight races at odds-on, including a victory over recent winner Jazzerin on Feb. 10 here.