06/25/2007 11:00PM

Lighten Up Rule the chosen one

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - If a 17-year-old kid told you which horse to wager on, would you listen? If the kid happens to be apprentice Joe Talamo, perhaps you would.

The second-leading rider at Hollywood Park, Talamo could have ridden any of three leading contenders Thursday in the race-7 feature - Lighten Up Rule, D Pirates Marker, or Sure Speed. Bettors can choose for themselves, or let Talamo decide.

Seven California-bred fillies and mares are in the 1 1/16-mile allowance race; three were ridden last out by Talamo.

Lighten Up Rule, trained by Kristin Mulhall, returned from a six-month layoff June 1 and crushed maiden sprinters by more than four lengths. But can she run long?

"I think she's dying to go long," Talamo said. "The way she won was very impressive."

Talamo and agent Ron Ebanks chose Lighten Up Rule on Thursday, but both say it wasn't an easy decision. Based on speed figures, Lighten Up Rule must to improve to win.

Lighten Up Rule earned an ordinary 78 Beyer Figure winning at seven furlongs, while D Pirates Marker earned an 88 in winning at 1o1/16 miles. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, D Pirates Marker's Beyer is tops in the field.

"She settled back, made a nice run at the end, and finished real well," Talamo said.

True enough. The problem is, she had never run close to that figure in seven previous starts. With Talamo on Lighten Up Rule, meet-leading jockey Michael Baze will ride D Pirates Marker. Baze entered the week six wins ahead of Talamo (56-50).

Talamo's other option was the Rafael Becerra-trained Sure Speed, who lost her chance at the break May 16. "I don't think she was standing right," Talamo said. "The ground broke out from under her. She got pinched and lost all chance right there."

Sure Speed, making only her second start, rallied into third on the far turn before losing her punch and losing by less than three lengths. If she breaks well and continues her improving pattern she can spring an upset.

But it might all be moot, because Tiz a Blend finished a close second last month under similar conditions. Pressured early on the lead, she sucked back to chase a fast pace, made the lead in deep stretch, and got caught by a last-to-first winner. Richard Migliore rides.