03/27/2008 11:00PM

Lovely Isle fits better sprinting


ARCADIA, Calif. - Front-runner Lovely Isle might someday try two turns again, but not while fighting the anti-speed bias that has typified route racing much of the winter meet at Santa Anita.

Lovely Isle nearly overcame the bias Feb. 9, finishing second in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile. A month later, in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles, she slowed the pace to a crawl under David Flores but still floundered. Trainer Bobby Frankel attributes her seventh-place finish to the synthetic surface.

"I think it was more the track than anything," Frankel said. "When the track was playing 'no speed' it got into his head."

Flores rated Lovely Isle through sluggish fractions of 47.89 seconds and 1:12.14 in the Oaks. The prevent-defense strategy backfired, when she was unable to run away from her rivals.

Sunday at Santa Anita, at a shorter distance, Lovely Isle may not need to ration her energy. She shortens to 6 1/2 furlongs in the Grade 3 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and if she runs her best race she can hide from her seven rivals.

"She's got plenty of speed, and the track seems to be playing fair now," Frankel said.

While the track is fair to running styles, a pronounced bias remains that favors horses racing wide into and through the stretch. Lovely Isle, who will be ridden Sunday by Tyler Baze, is quick enough to make the lead and stay off the rail turning for home.

If she reproduces her second start - she won at Aqueduct by more than 16 lengths while earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure - then Lovely Isle can score her first graded stakes win. If she falls short, the Santa Paula is anyone's race. With good local fillies Golden Doc A and Tasha's Miracle opting for stakes in Kentucky, the $100,000 Santa Paula resembles an allowance race.

Dawn Before Dawn makes her first start in California and first for trainer John Sadler.

"She's training really good," Sadler said, supported by a 1:11.20 best-of-the-morning workout March 24. The question for Dawn Before Dawn, 2 for 3 last fall at Louisiana Downs, is whether she is good enough. Her career-high Beyer is a mere 69, but that was five months ago and she may be faster than that now.

Lethal Heat won her first two starts on grass, and switches to the main track.