08/24/2001 12:00AM

Master meets pupil again, in Debutante


PHOENIX - It is, in some respects, a family feud.

Last year trainer Bob Baffert and his former assistant Eoin Harty put aside friendship and went at it. Leadership of the West's juvenile ranks was on the line between Flame Thrower, trained by Baffert, and Street Cry, trained by Harty for his new employers, Godolphin. Flame Thrower got the best of it, and the teacher was still showing the pupil a thing or two.

A year later, Harty sends out Godolphin's dazzling filly Tempera against Baffert's upstart Habibaty in Sunday's Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante at 7 furlongs. Maybe a year later, the pupil can turn the tables.

That's because Tempera could be a budding superstar. A daughter of A.P. Indy, she finished a well-beaten third in her debut but has been stunning since. She won her maiden with a flourish, easily beating Baffert's Newport Beach, who appeared on her way to stardom before being felled by injury.

Tempera came back in Del Mar's Sorrento Aug. 4 and demolished the field, winning by nine under wraps over multiple stakes-winner Georgia's Storm. It was a devastating win, and earned a strong 95 Beyer Speed Figure. She ran six furlongs in 1:09.81 and 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.13.

She has been working as well as ever, and being by A.P. Indy she may only get better as the furlongs add up.

But Baffert is not coming into the race this with a pop gun. Habibaty broke on the scene July 29 at Del Mar. A daughter of Tabasco Cat, she didn't appear suited to a 5 1/2-furlong sprint, and indeed was well back early. However, under Victor Espinoza she stormed home, rallying past the field to win by two going away. Her Beyer was 95, the same as Tempera's figure in winning the Sorrento. And like Tempera, Habibaty figures to enjoy longer distances.

However, she may be at a distinct disadvantage here. Tempera has three starts to Habitaby's one; Tempera has considerable speed, while Habibaty was eighth early in her debut race. The talent may be there for Habitaby to beat Tempera, but right now it appears it's the Godolphin filly holding the aces.

For Iselin, think locally

The Grade 2 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth has a home-cooking appeal. How many times in races like the Haskell or Iselin have you seen a local horse run big? Too many to ignore. There are no monsters slated to run in the Iselin, though Broken Vow certainly figures to be very tough. The veteran Sir Bear is also in the small field.

If Broken Vow doesn't come up with a biggie, this race may be ripe for the taking. First Lieutenant has had a modest career, but he is three for four at Monmouth, and that doesn't appear to be an accident.

Touch Tone loved the Monmouth surface enough to almost beat Point Given. Maybe First Lieutenant's love of the track can bridge the talent gap between him and the big players of the Iselin. Best of all, he'll be a nice price.