05/02/2005 11:00PM

Marty's Zee is dangerous if she keeps it slow early


SAN MATEO, Calif. - It's one of the first axioms handicappers learn about racing: Pace makes the race.

Solving the pace puzzle is the key in Thursday's Bay Meadows feature, a $50,000 optional claimer at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares.

Nine entered the race, three of them strictly front-runners and two others quite comfortable setting the pace. With this much speed, tactics become important. Will jockeys sense a speed duel and take back, allowing one horse to steal the race? Will so many try for the lead that the race sets up for closers?

, an 8-year-old mare with 10 wins and career earnings of $338,127, has only one way to go. She'll set the pace or make whichever rival is on the lead run faster than she may want to.

Marty's Zee has drawn outside and will have to use her speed early in order to avoid being hung out wide on the first turn. She has worked well for her first start in nearly three months, and, if she's in front and can slow the first half-mile to 47 seconds, she could prove tough.

But Marty's Zee may have to run a lot faster early, and that could help set things up for off-the-pace types.

, who got away with slow fractions in a first-level allowance race on April 17, has three career victories - two over the turf here. All three have come in wire-to-wire style, so the assumption is she'll be going for the lead as well.

, coming off a wire-to-wire turf victory here, is looking for her third straight win this year. She is a bit more versatile than Marty's Zee and Pleasure Fair, having won while sitting close to the pace. But she is drawn just inside Marty's Zee, and strategy may dictate that she go early to avoid being hung wide.

Stakes winner Drought Breaker steps up off a wire-to-wire victory in her debut over the turf here. Like Gods Ear, she can win from a stalking position.

, Gods Ear's stablemate, doesn't have her stablemate's speed but usually sits close to the lead.

Since the pace figures to be fast, off-the-pace types look like the way to play the race.

Justly Royal won three straight before faltering against better at Santa Anita last time. She loves the distance, with three wins, three seconds, and a third in eight starts, and has a solid work since her last start.

Callmelauryn, who broke slowly and never got into her comeback race, is another that should be a factor in the lane.