02/22/2007 12:00AM

Lexi Star has work her cut out

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Among the seven older fillies and mares entered in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Racing Media Handicap at Laurel Park, Lexi Star is the only one with a stakes victory against open company the past two seasons. In fact, she has won stakes in 2 of her last 3 starts, including last month's Nellie Morse, and boasts the best last-race Beyer Speed Figure in the field.

Despite how good Lexi Star appears at first glance, however, there are a couple good reasons why she may be a vulnerable favorite in the 1o1/8-mile handicap.

A 5-year-old trained by Chris Grove, Lexi Star runs her best races when she's fresh. Since October 2005, Lexi Star is 4 for 8 with one near-miss when she has run with 30 or more days between starts. But she is 0 for 2 coming back on fewer than 30 days off, as she will Saturday. Both of those losses came in 1 1/8-mile stakes locally.

More significantly, Lexi Star usually comes from off the pace. She was 10 lengths behind, for example, after the first half-mile of the Jan. 27 Nellie Morse, a race she drew off to win by 1 3/4 lengths. The pace in the Maryland Racing Media projects to be slow and should hinder a closer like Lexi Star.

Raging Rapids could find herself in front by default. The Philadelphia Park-based Raging Rapids steps up significantly in class off an easy win three weeks ago over $7,500 starter allowance rivals at Laurel.

Raging Rapid, 6, was claimed for $10,000 in April 2006 by trainer Ramon Preciado on behalf of Victory Thoroughbreds. Since then, she has won 8 of 13 starts, including a 4 3/4-length score over Pennsylania-breds in the Pistol Packer Handicap last October.

Although Raging Rapids has not been up close early in her last three races, she shows two good efforts in which she did flash speed. She was in front by four lengths through a first six furlongs run in 1:12.64 of a mile and 70-yard allowance route in November, and within a length of the leader after six furlongs in 1:09.65 of a seven-furlong allowance on Oct. 31. That kind of speed could well put her alone on the lead in the Maryland Racing Media.

Two others capable of upsetting the favorite are Katie's Love, who was second and third in back-to-back 1 1/8-mile races in December and January, and It's True Love, who finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Lexi Star last time out.