09/11/2006 11:00PM

Little City ready following meltdown

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POMONA, Calif. - Little City got creamed two weeks ago in her comeback at Del Mar. She pressed a wickedly fast pace, surrendered, and finished next to last.

No problem.

With a prep race under her belt and a slower pace expected Thursday in the $65,000 Bustles and Bows Stakes at Fairplex Park, Little City should redeem herself by leading wire to wire in the 6 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies.

"I'm hoping she gets a softer pace," trainer Mike Harrington said. "Plus, she'll be fitter coming out of the other race. She'd been off a long time."

A front-runner, Little City had not raced in three months when she returned Aug. 30 in a speed-filled Generous Portion Stakes that unfolded all wrong for her style.

"She probably wasn't a hundred percent fit, and the brutal pace just did her in," Harrington said.

An opening quarter-mile in 21.54 seconds and a half-mile in 45.14 seconds spelled doom for the front-runners. Prenuptial took advantage of the meltdown by rallying from last to win the six-furlong race. For Little City, the sixth-place finish served its purpose.

It was Little City's first start since a sharp victory May 25 at Hollywood Park in one of the most productive 2-year-old races of the summer. Three fillies that finished behind Little City came back to win their next start; Little City came out of the race with tender shins that necessitated a three-month layoff.

Michael Baze rides Little City, whose 80 Beyer Speed Figure earned in her maiden win is the highest in the field. And Harrington will get his wish - the pace in the Bustles and Bows will be softer. The likely favorite, Little City, is the one to catch.

Little City faces two main threats: shipper Marianne Rose, a stakes winner on the five-eighths mile Hastings Park track in Vancouver, B.C., and comebacker Erin's Kristina. Five others entered the Bustles and Bows - Profitbox, Miss Melissa, Rockella, Quick Little Miss, and Torikins.

* Plug Me In ($9.20) won the $63,700 Derby Trial Stakes on Monday at Fairplex Park, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds that exposed even-money favorite Seven Nation Army as a late-running sprinter. Plug Me In, trained by Julio Canani, was ridden by Martin Pedroza to a 3 3/4-length win over runner-up Gimme S'Mor. Seven Nation Army, winner of the seven-furlong Real Good Deal in his previous start at Del Mar, finished sixth of seven.