11/29/2010 3:02PM

Kaili to face challenge of Hallelujah Trail

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ALBANY, Calif. – It’s impossible to run any better than Kaili has, but trainer Lloyd Mason believes the 3-year-old filly has barely scratched the surface of her potential.

A Grand Slam homebred for Edward and Theresa DeNike, Kaili won her debut by three lengths on Aug. 15, 2009. She was then freshened and pointed to a race at Santa Anita at the Oak Tree meet, but sore knees and feet prompted Mason to send her to the sidelines.

When she returned to the races five weeks ago on Oct. 24 after more than 14 months on the sidelines, Kaili was even more impressive than in her debut. Despite breaking a bit slowly from the rail and facing early traffic problems down the backstretch, she stayed on the rail and won with ease, covering six furlongs in 1:09.73.

Kaili gets her toughest test yet Wednesday in a six-furlong $50,000 optional claimer at Golden Gate Fields. Among her five rivals is the multiple stakes-placed Hallelujah Trail.

Mason was “not really” surprised by Kaili’s victory in her comeback, nor was he surprised by the impressive manner by which she won.

“Her works have always been really good,” said Mason, who believed even when Kaili was a freshly arrived 2-year-old in his barn that the Grand Slam filly had the qualities to be special.

His faith in the filly and the patience of the DeNikes allowed him to take plenty of time getting her back.

“They race most of their own horses, and they are always careful with them,” Mason said.

Although she could have run sooner than she did this year, Mason had trouble finding a spot for her.

“It’s hard finding races,” he said. “The shortage of horses doesn’t help barns that have nice horses like this.”

Kaili might have made her second start off the layoff a little sooner had there been a spot, but Mason didn’t want to rush and said that spacing her races won’t hurt.

She has three works since her comeback win, and Mason likes the way she is coming into the race.

Kaili drew the outside 6 post with Hallelujah Trail just inside her. Hallelujah Trail makes her third start after a four-month freshening and ran second in both the Hastings Handicap and Washington Legislators Handicap at Emerald Downs this spring after setting the pace before finishing fourth by a length in the Grade 3 Las Flores at Santa Anita.

Mason said Kaili, a daughter of Grand Slam out of the Tabasco Cat mare Star of Beijing, will be stretched out after Wednesday’s race.

“Two turns is what we’re leaning toward, especially on grass,” he said.