12/07/2008 1:00AM

Model poised to take Bayakoa

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Given that her only significant victory was in a minor stakes with a purse of just $75,000, Model might seem underqualified to win the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap on Sunday at Hollywood Park.

But none of the remaining seven fillies and mares in the $150,000 Bayakoa is sharper than this rapidly improving 4-year-old filly, and the truth is Model is positioned for her first graded stakes win Sunday in the 1 1/16-mile race on the main track.

"She's got a lot of confidence, she's been running good, and she's going phenomenal in the morning," jockey Michael Baze said. Neil Drysdale trains Model, whose improving pattern stamps her as the one to beat Sunday against a diverse field.

Grade 1 winner Double Trouble will make her first start since June, Baroness Thatcher will start for the first time since being sold at auction for $1.8 million, and longshot front-runner Briecat will try to race wire to wire. Other starters include stakes winners Spenditallbaby, Lady Digby, Wake Up Maggie, and Bai and Bai.

Model was going nowhere until summer at Del Mar. She overcame a tough trip to win a second-level allowance, and then gave Zenyatta a scare finishing second in the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch Handicap. The race took its toll, and four weeks later Model finished a dull third at 6-5.

"She ran so hard" against Zenyatta, Baze said, "that she just bounced. She ran her heart out, and used herself up."

Drysdale gave Model five weeks and sent her to Keeneland, where she finished second in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. But her most recent start Nov. 2 at Hollywood in the It's in the Air Stakes was even more impressive.

Model raced three- and four-wide throughout, broke it open into the lane, and won with authority. Baze was not concerned with the wide trip.

"I didn't want to get her in any trouble," he said. "I knew I had a lot of horse."

Model earned an ordinary Beyer Speed Figure of 87, which does not incorporate ground loss. Sired by Giant's Causeway, Model has won 4 races and $383,586 from 14 starts for owner Abergwaun Farm.

Briecat is the only 3-year-old filly in the field, and though she appears outclassed, she is the speed of the race. The Bayakoa has been won by a 3-year-old three times in the last four years.

Bobby Frankel trains Double Trouble, who tailed off in summer.

"She just wasn't at her best," Frankel said. "She's fine now."