12/12/2007 12:00AM

Marina Ballerina drops to boost her confidence

EmailMIAMI - Marina Ballerina has kept a steady diet of stakes company ever since she won the Trenton Stakes on Monmouth Park's turf course on Aug. 12. A speedy 3-year-old, Marina Ballerina will finally get a little class relief when she drops into optional claiming company for her Calder debut in Friday's $26,500 feature. The six-furlong dirt sprint is open to third-level allowance fillies and mares, along with $40,000 claimers.

Marina Ballerina has been winless in three subsequent starts since withstanding a race-long pace battle to post a game neck decision in the 5o1/2-furlong Trenton. Early speed duels have proved her undoing in each of those three outings, including her most recent start, when she finished sixth after leading to the stretch in the Mariah Storm Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 18.

"I put her back with allowance horses hoping to get her confidence back," trainer Steve Margolis said Wednesday morning. "The last time she ran on the main track was at Monmouth Park the day before the Breeders' Cup, where she wound up going 20 and change over that muddy track. And in her last start on the grass in Kentucky, she got beat less than two lengths against a bunch of older, more seasoned horses despite having to steady when shut off nearing the wire."

Margolis is concerned that Marina Ballerina drew the rail in Friday's race, which will likely force jockey Jose Lezcano's hand right out of the gate.

"If she breaks good, she's got to go from the rail," said Margolis. "If she wasn't down on the inside she could probably sit second or third, because she has rated and won in the past."

Marina Ballerina figures to get tested early by speedsters Yesshecandance, Lucky Too, and Secret Girlfriend, all of whom have been on or near the lead in the majority of their starts.

Yesshecandance returned from a 13-month layoff to finish second after setting all the pace going 5 1/2 furlongs in a similar allowance race on Nov. 23. She was a two-time stakes winner at 2, winning both of those races on the front end.

Like Marina Ballerina, Songofthesouth also drops to an optional claimer after making her last three starts in stakes. One of only two 4-year-olds in the field, Songofthesouth finished third behind some of the best sprinters on the grounds, including A Sea Trippi and Annabill in the seven-furlong Barbs Dancer Stakes on Aug. 4.

A Little Gem may run Sunday

Margolis, who was allotted 26 stalls at Gulfstream Park this winter, also hopes to be in action at Calder later this weekend with A Little Gem, a 2-year-old filly who earlier this season won the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park.

"There's a two-other-than allowance race in the book for Sunday that I'm hoping will go," said Margolis. "She hasn't started since stumbling leaving the gate and finishing off the board in the Frizzette in early September. I just decided to give her a break after that because she's basically a six- to seven-furlong filly and there really wasn't anything else around for her. I'm hoping to get an easy race into her on Sunday before we put her back in against stakes fillies this winter at Gulfstream."

Margolis, whose most notable victory came with Cajun Beat in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint, is hoping to have a big winter at Gulfstream.

"I've got horses now for the Klein family, Martin Cherry, and the Starlight Stable," said Margolis. "I've been out on my own for eight years and usually come down here with claiming type stock and kind of sneak under the radar. But this winter I've got some very nice young horses, the majority of whom I hope will be able to compete with allowance and stakes types."