06/28/2004 11:00PM

Hot pace looks good for 'Lana'

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PLEASANTON, Calif. - Pace may be the deciding factor in Thursday's feature race at the Alameda County Fair, a six-furlong, first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies.

Four of the six runners can run the opening half-mile in 44 seconds and change, which, on the surface, seems to set things up for an off-the-pace runner.

Tequila Lana will likely be last early and could be in front at the wire if a heated pace battle erupts.

But as her trainer Howard Belvoir points out, "Everybody reads the Form. If there's that much speed, somebody may take off the pace."

Belvoir is still optimistic his filly, who has two wins and a pair of seconds in seven starts, will run well. She has never failed to pick up a check when sprinting.

Belvoir experimented by running Tequila Lana a route of ground in the San Jose Handicap, but she finished sixth and was never a factor, prompting Belvoir to say, "I think we can throw that out."

She was fourth, beaten 11 lengths, when she returned to a sprint in her last start on June 10 at Bay Meadows.

"You always wonder why she didn't close, but she had an excuse in the barn, and, hopefully, we've found the problem," Belvoir said. "Also, she had to sit inside and didn't like a lot of dirt in her face, so I'm glad she drew outside here."

While Tequila Lana may benefit from the expected quick pace, Miss Bleus Clues, who was second, well in front of Tequila Lana, on June 10, may find herself at a disadvantage.

Miss Bleus Clues, making her first start in nearly eight months, opened a clear lead only to be caught late.

"I thought she ran good," trainer Terry Knight said. "She was a little sharp, a little fresh, and went pretty fast early."

Miss Bleus Clues won her debut last year at Del Mar and then faded against better in her next two starts before being given a break.

"She ran good in her debut, then had some problems," Knight said. "She's a lot healthier and stronger now. I think she may be a little bit versatile, too."

In other words, she may not need to lead to win. But she drew the rail, and with other speed horses entered in the race, her hand may be forced.

"She's doing good and came out of the race well," said Knight, who has given Miss Bleus Clues two works in the three weeks since her comeback.