07/10/2006 11:00PM

Lake Marina ready for step up

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The class hike to first-condition allowance has foiled an untold number of maiden winners, and perhaps Lake Marina will be the latest to trip on the class barrier Thursday at Hollywood Park.

But the manner in which she drilled maidens in her most recent start - she pressed a fast pace on a dead track and drew off through the lane - suggests that Lake Marina is the most likely winner of the seventh-race feature, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for fillies and mares.

"We'll find out if she's the real thing," trainer Barry Abrams said.

began the year in the dead of winter at Turfway Park, racing in chilly night air and losing her first three Kentucky starts by double digits. She needed a warmer climate. Owner Richard Rosenberg transferred her to California, and despite a slow break in a $50,000 maiden-claimer she finished second.

Unfortunately, Abrams did not keep her in dirt routes and moved her to grass sprints.

"I had nowhere to run her," he explained. "I tried this, I tried that."

Nothing worked, until Abrams put her back in a main-track route May 12.

Lake Marina got rank, set a suicidal pace by racing the opening half-mile in 45.43 seconds, and tired to third. It was a super effort that Abrams attributes mainly to "stretching out and running on dirt."

A 3-year-old filly by Meadowlake, Lake Marina put it all together June 15. She chased the pace, ran past the 2-5 favorite into the far turn, and dominated the rest of the way. Under apprentice Martin Garcia, Lake Marina won by four lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 92 that exceeds par for first-level allowance fillies.

But was the race legitimate? The runner-up, Wildout, was scheduled to start as one of the favorites Wednesday in race 5. If she runs well, then Lake Marina could be a slam dunk Thursday despite the pace scenario.

"There's a lot of pace pressure. she'll get out of there quick, but I want her to sit just off the pace," Abrams said. If she does, she can win again. "She has the pedigree to be a nice filly," the trainer said.

The field includes turf-to-dirt . Both are flattered by the pace scenario. Other starters are Home Ice, Yodeladytoo, Kelly Mac, The Wages of Sin, She's Noble, Neon Princess, and Donerella.

In race 4, Abrams starts 2-year-old first-timer Spenditallbaby, an Unusual Heat filly that he says "has the ability" to win first out. Her main threat is second-time starter Like a Star, runner-up in her debut.