04/07/2003 11:00PM

Lake Lady to face Distant Valley on turf

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Lake Lady has the class to win Thursday's $37,000 allowance feature at Lone Star Park, but a more important requirement is a liking for the turf.

A multiple-stakes-winning daughter of Salt Lake, she will be making her turf debut in the one-mile race, which is for fillies and mares who have not won an allowance or stakes this year.

Lake Lady won the Thelma and Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Grounds as a 3-year-old last year. She later finished second in both the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn. Injury and other ailments sidelined her for the remainder of her 3-year-old season. Lake Lady made her return to the races in the six-furlong Victoria Lass Handicap at Fair Grounds March 15.

Though well-bet, Lake Lady finished last of eight in the Victoria Lass. But her Beyer Speed Figure of 85 was creditable, and she may not be far away from returning to her best.

Lake Lady will be ridden by Eddie Martin Jr. for trainer Bret Calhoun. The two teamed up to win the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge on Saturday with Lone Star Deputy.

The biggest threat to Lake Lady will come from Distant Valley. A group winner in her native England and of the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill last spring, Distant Valley has shown signs of improved form following a disastrous second half of 2002.

Distant Valley also wintered at Fair Grounds, where in January she placed second in a money allowance in her 4-year-old debut. Shipped to Sam Houston for her next start, the Jersey Lilly Stakes, she tired to third after setting the early pace. Corey Lanerie will ride Distant Valley for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Others contenders are Eagle Lake and Strawbailey. A winner the last three times she raced on turf, including two Texas-bred stakes, Eagle Lady is the likely pacesetter and could prove dangerous if allowed to set a slow pace.

Strawbailey, a winner of two minor stakes at Remington last year, closed from last to finish fourth going five furlongs on the turf at Sam Houston in her seasonal bow. Considering it was her first race in more than five months, she has a right to move forward Thursday.

* Secret of Mecca, third behind Affluent and Sightseek in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap in January, will make her first start for trainer Cole Norman in Thursday's eighth race, a three-other-than allowance with a $50,000 claiming option.