09/16/2006 12:00AM

Marian good fit for O'Neill filly


Ambition will take a backseat to reality on Monday at Fairplex Park for Meetmeinthewoods, who should rule a strong favorite when she returns to face fellow California-bred 3-year-old fillies in the day's feature, the $65,000 CTBA Marian Stakes.

Meetmeinthewoods defeated Cal-breds in a first-level allowance race at Del Mar on July 19, but - as often has happened in her career - she was subsequently placed in a difficult spot, the Del Mar Oaks. Not only did she face open company, not only was she put in a Grade 1 race, but she also had to race on turf for the first time. The results were predictable. Meetmeinthewoods finished ninth in the field of 10 after setting the early pace.

Meetmeinthewoods was a dazzling winner of her debut last fall at Hollywood Park, but since then, the spots chosen by her connections, owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O'Neill, have often exceeded her grasp. After winning first time out, Meetmeinthewoods jumped straight into the Hollywood Starlet, where she finished fourth. After two months off, she was placed in another Grade 1 race, Santa Anita's Las Virgenes Stakes, in which she finished sixth of seven. The allowance win at Del Mar, in which Meetmeinthewoods was an odds-on favorite, was her second start following a four-month freshening. And while the waters were too deep in the Del Mar Oaks, Meetmeinthewoods "came out of the race in real good shape," O'Neill said Saturday.

Meetmeinthewoods has sharp early speed, which could make her the one to catch in the 1 1/16-mile Marian. O'Neill said Meetmeinthewoods has matured in recent months, so if someone else is intent on the lead, O'Neill believes she will cooperate.

Only five others are entered against Meetmeinthewoods, who will carry top weight of 123 pounds, four more than her rivals.

More Angels defeated $40,000 claimers at Del Mar before fading in the Torrey Pines Stakes.

Mamita Chula upset claimers on turf at Del Mar in her first start since being claimed by trainer Nick Hines. She was second to More Angels in her prior start.

Sarah's Heart comes off a front-running win against $40,000 claimers at Del Mar.

Meet the Heat was well-beaten by $20,000 claimers in her last start.

Mimi Guarneri has finished second in both her races, most recently against open company at Del Mar.