05/16/2007 11:00PM

Maizelle tough in Monmouth Beach


The field isn't especially large, and the stakes, of the overnight variety, has a purse of $60,000, but the Monmouth Beach Stakes scheduled for Saturday at Monmouth turned out decent.

As of noon Thursday, entries for the Saturday racing program at Monmouth hadn't yet closed, but racing officials counted seven names in the entry box for the Monmouth Beach and didn't expect any others. The race is carded for one mile on dirt and is restricted to females.

The Todd Pletcher barn had not yet won a race at Monmouth through the middle of this week, but might have the Monmouth Beach favorite in a lightly raced filly named Maizelle. Maizelle, owned by Aaron and Marie Jones, has started six times and never been worse than second, with three wins and three second-place finishes on her record. A front-running sort, Maizelle comes off a decent win in a restricted Aqueduct stakes, but more may be expected of her Saturday. In fact, bettors always seem to expect a lot from Maizelle: She's been favored in all her starts - odds-on in four of them - and has never gone off at a price higher than about 3-2.

But Maizelle seems far from a cinch in the Monmouth Beach. Five-time winner Peak Maria's Way could pose a front-end challenge, while Maryland invader Promenade Girl is likely to run better than the sixth-place finish in her 2006 finale. Prop Me Up rarely wins, but has shown herself good enough to consistently finish second or third in competition like Saturday's. And Victory Pool, a disappointing fourth in this race last year, was supplemented to the Monmouth Beach by trainer Ben Perkins Jr., who has won with two of his first five starters at the meet.