01/20/2010 12:00AM

McVictory looks to keep improving

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Thursday's card at Aqueduct is highlighted by race 3, a $45,000 optional claimer with second-level allowance conditions at a mile and 70 yards.

McVictory heads the sextet of 4-year-old fillies on the strength of two improved performances for trainer Bobby Barbara.

After nine defeats, McVictory got through her preliminary allowance condition in a sloppy off-the-turf route at Belmont, rallying from last to score by better than four lengths in mid-October. She was freshened following that race and returned here Jan. 8 with a sharp second in her first try at this level, rallying to the lead in midstretch and winding up five lengths clear of third-place finisher Judge Margaret.

Judge Margaret, who also returns on Thursday, was boxed in on the turn and finished willingly when clear.

"She didn't have the very best trip," trainer Karl Grusmark said. "With a clean trip, I think she is going to run well."

The 13-day turnaround should pose no problem for Judge Margaret, who thrived on a busy schedule after being transferred to Grusmark last summer. She won or placed in seven consecutive starts, including wins with seven and 11 days between races.

Judge Margaret ran for $12,500 - with no takers - in her first two starts for Grusmark at Finger Lakes. She is in for the optional $50,000 price Thursday.

"We started her out relatively cheap, and she just seemed to get better and better as time went on," he said. "It may have just been a case of a young horse maturing."

Though it's a short field, the run to the first turn should be eventful, since early-pace types Olde Glamour, Miss Dartmouth, and Pamona Ball drew the three outside posts.

Olde Glamour wired a $25,000 claiming route for Carlos Martin on Jan. 8 through a faster pace than what was encountered by McVictory and Judge Margaret in the day's next race.

Miss Dartmouth ran twice here last winter, wiring maidens from an outside post and setting the early pace before finishing ninth in the Busanda Stakes.

Pamona Ball showed promise winning the Sharp Cat Stakes for Darley Stable as a 2-year-old. Two starts ago, she dueled for the lead and came up second best to Tidal Dance, winner of the Affectionately last Sunday.

Cajun Belle, claimed from her first start at the meet by Joseph Signore, rounds out the field.