01/15/2010 12:00AM

Martin's Bay prefers fast track

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Martin's Bay will be a rare Oaklawn Park starter for trainer Andrew Leggio on Sunday, when she takes on the red-hot A.J.'s Love in a second-level optional $40,000 claiming route for fillies and mares.

The featured eighth race on a nine-race card, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles, also includes the stakes-quality Color Me Up in a field of eight.

Martin's Bay invades from Fair Grounds, where she worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.60 seconds Dec. 27. She is seeking to rebound from an eighth-place finish in the $125,000 Treasure Chest at Delta Downs in her last out Dec. 4.

"She wasn't crazy about the sloppy track," Leggio said. "It was snowing and all that. I don't think she handled that."

Leggio would like to see her get conditions on Sunday that are similar to her last win, which came on a fast track in the $75,000 River Cities at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 19.

"She ran a big race," Leggio said. "That particular track was to her liking, the pace was to her liking, and she did her job."

Martin's Bay is a front-runner, and has recency on one of her chief rivals, A.J.'s Love. While based in Chicago, A.J.'s Love won her last three starts, all wire to wire, with her most recent out coming in a first-level allowance at Hawthorne on Nov. 19. She will break from the rail, while Martin's Bay will be to her immediate outside in post 2.

Corey Nakatani has the mount on Martin's Bay. Nakatani, who won a race here Friday, has moved his tack here from Southern California, and is back riding for the first time since Oct. 15 at Santa Anita.

Tanner Riggs will once again be aboard A.J.'s Love, who before the first-level allowance won a $25,000 maiden claimer and a $25,000 conditioned race. Frank Kirby trains A.J.'s Love.

Color Me Up enters off a third-place finish to War Echo in a second-level allowance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 19. Following that race, War Echo won the $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff at Fair Grounds.

Return the Jewel, who is a closer, can take advantage if A.J.'s Love, Martin's Bay, and the front-running Color Me Up make for some hot fractions. Return the Jewel was second by a length in a $35,000 optional claiming route at Remington Park in her last start Nov. 9.