10/14/2003 12:00AM

Midnight Velvet takes needed drop

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Although she has been beaten more than a combined 30 lengths in stakes races at Fairplex in her past two starts, Midnight Velvet looms the one to beat in Thursday's Bay Meadows feature.

She and stablemate Amanda Marie have three rivals in a $40,000 starter allowance for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs.

Midnight Velvet, owned by trainer Ed Moger Jr.'s top clients, Curt and Lila Lanning, runs at Bay Meadows for the first time since she finished second here in her debut, a $25,000 maiden claimer on May 10.

"She was acting like a pretty nice filly," said Moger, who sent her south after that.

She was second in a pair of high-priced maiden claimers at Hollywood Park and finally, in her fourth start, won her maiden for a $62,500 tag at Del Mar.

That victory limited Moger's options with the filly to stakes or allowance company down south.

"With her, there's no place else to run," Moger said. "She's not eligible for this type of starter allowance race down there because she won for $62,500."

The conditions for Thursday's race state only that the runner must have started for a claiming price of $40,000 or less and never won two races.

Midnight Velvet appears to have a class edge over her rivals: Two of them graduated for $12,500 tags, and the other two, including Amanda Marie, won their maidens at the $32,000 level.

Moger says Midnight Velvet's last start, in the 1 1/16-mile Black Swan on Sept. 24, can be tossed out because "she reared in the gate as the field broke."

Three runners will likely fight for the lead Thursday, which should set things up for Midnight Velvet's off-the-pace style.

One of the pace players will be Amanda Marie, who won her Sept. 22 debut at Emerald Downs.

"[Trainer] Frank Lucarelli sent her to me," Moger said. "We're good friends and went to high school together. He said she won very easily. She's breezed very nicely for me, so we'll see what happens."

Thursday's co-feature, which has the same conditions for 3-year-old and up fillies and mares, also drew five runners.

Deal With the Devil, who has run well in all four of her starts, may be the one to beat.

After winning her maiden for a $12,500 tag in her second start, Deal With the Devil was fourth behind a pair of Thursday's rivals, Creditcardpurchase and Lonesome Knight, after racing wide in her debut against winners.

She was an odds-on pick against similar last time and but finished second - although she did beat Lonesome Knight. Buccaneer Babe, the winner of that race, was a strong second against better on Monday.