01/18/2006 1:00AM

Late bloomer again looks tough to catch

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Darling Daughter did not begin her career until the fall of her 4-year-old campaign, but she has proven to be a late bloomer by winning two of her four starts. Darling Daughter will try to continue to make up for lost time when she goes off as the horse to beat in a full field of 12 fillies and mares slated to go a mile in Friday's $35,000 feature at Gulfstream Park.

rallied to finish second when she made her debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight dash at Keeneland on Oct. 9. She returned four weeks later to win her maiden, going gate to wire to score an 8 1/2-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile race at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Dale Romans wheeled Darling Daughter back 10 days later, but the short rest and an eventful start led to a fourth-place finish as the 3-5 favorite in an entry-level allowance at Churchill Downs. She shipped to south Florida shortly thereafter and rebounded with a 1 1/2-length first-level allowance win over Saint Kris at Calder on Dec. 23.

A Maria's Mon filly, Darling Daughter should again find herself the controlling speed in Friday's main event, which is a second-level allowance/optional claimer. Her chief rival figures to be another lightly raced filly, Key Causeway, who has started just six times, including three times last fall following a one-year hiatus.

is a homebred daughter of Giant's Causeway trained by Mark Hennig. She was unproductive in three starts as a 2-year-old, but has been much improved since returning to the races in September, when she finished second at Monmouth Park. Key Causeway has since posted two allowance wins, most recently a nose decision going a mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 24.

, an impressive entry-level allowance winner going a mile at Churchill Downs two starts backs, returns to a more suitable spot after finishing eighth over the Polytrack in a division of Turfway Park's My Charmer Stakes on Dec. 10.

will be dangerous if she draws in off the also-eligible list. She has won her last two starts, including a third-level optional claiming and allowance race at Calder on Dec. 21. Getcozywithkaylee is eligible for Friday's race because she has been entered to compete under a $50,000 claiming tag.