09/17/2004 11:00PM

'Kisses' could be challenged


POMONA, Calif. - To beat Alphabet Kisses, all you have to do is hook her early. The problem with the $60,000 CTBA Marian Stakes on Monday at Fairplex Park is finding one who is willing or able to provide the sacrifice.

A field of six entered the CTBA Marian for 3-year-old California-bred fillies, in which Alphabet Kisses faces one serious rival - Drought Breaker. Four others are either too slow, off form, or overmatched. Little Foxy Baby, however, will affect the 1 1/16-mile race because she is the only starter capable of keeping up with Alphabet Kisses.

"If there's someone pressing her, she gets pretty aggressive," said Marty Jones, who trains Alphabet Kisses. "It all depends on how she relaxes."

Alphabet Kisses has won three of six, including a turf route three starts back in which she was handed a lonely lead. But last start, Alphabet Kisses was hounded through a blistering pace and weakened to third. On Monday, she will either be loose on the lead, or hooked by Little Foxy Baby.

A 3-for-9 claiming sprinter, Little Foxy Baby has never raced beyond seven furlongs. But she has speed, and poses the main early threat to Alphabet Kisses. Little Foxy Baby was claimed last out for $40,000 by trainer Mike Marlow. She probably cannot win, but she could make things tough on Alphabet Kisses.

Garrett Gomez rides Alphabet Kisses, who is coming back just 16 days after her grueling third-place finish in a minor stakes at Del Mar.

"She ran really hard the other day, and it's back a little quick, so I am a little concerned about that," Jones said.

Alphabet Kisses, by Alphabet Soup, is owned and bred by California Horse Racing Board chairman John Harris.

The main late threat to Alphabet Kisses is Drought Breaker, who has improved significantly since trainer Bill Spawr claimed her for $40,000 off a maiden win in May. Drought Breaker has earned Beyer Figures of 91 or higher in her last three starts, and is likely to be positioned right behind Alphabet Kisses and Little Foxy Baby. Drought Breaker finished second last out in an open one-other-than allowance against older.

Martin Pedroza rides Drought Breaker, who has won three of 10, and two of three since being claimed. A daughter of Steinlen, Drought Breaker enters as the most probable winner of the Marian. Pedroza and Spawr combined Friday to win the Pio Pico Stakes with 7-5 favorite Market Garden.

Other starters Monday include Dance of the Year, Coke's Melody, and Princess Con.