05/11/2006 11:00PM

Neko Bay showing his class


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Two starts into his career, is living up to his pedigree.

Sired by Giant's Causeway and out of Grade 2 Railbird winner Brulay, Neko Bay aims for his third win Sunday at Hollywood Park in the $65,000 Alydar Stakes for 3-year-olds. The 1 1/8-mile dirt race leads to the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 17 and the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes on July 8.

Five others entered the Alydar: , a maiden winner on turf; and Gulfstream Park shipper Valid Mecke.

None has more potential than Neko Bay, trained by John Shirreffs and owned by his breeders, Jerry and Ann Moss. Neko Bay was completely overlooked March 4 when he roared from behind for a $44.60 upset in his debut at 6 1/2 furlongs. The fast time (1:15.31) earned a Beyer Figure of 98.

Bettors went overboard when Neko Bay returned in an allowance route April 4. Neko Bay was pounded to 1-2 in one of the worst sucker bets in racing - a come-from-behind maiden sprint winner at low odds facing winners and stretching out.

Neko Bay saved ground and cut the corner turning for home. That is where the intimidation factor set in. When two rivals outside did not yield, at the furlong pole Neko Bay found himself buried along the rail, a half-length off the lead. He looked beaten.

But the unseasoned colt re-rallied inside, surged late, and won by a nose. It was a display of class by Neko Bay, who finished the mile in 1:37.70. Though his Beyer Figure dropped six points to 92, Neko Bay served notice he is a colt with class.

Neko Bay has trained steadily since, and looms a deserving Alydar favorite under Corey Nakatani. Most of his rivals are modest. Greedy Way won a fast maiden route last time. Blazing Sunset finished a head behind Neko Bay last out, and will be forwardly placed. Valid Mecke finished second in a one-turn allowance at Gulfstream Park.

Papanonie rallied from sixth to win a modest maiden race last month on grass. Though sired by Broken Vow, he was produced by Heptathlon, a 1998 stakes winner whose best races were on grass. Three Points has ordinary speed figures his last three starts, while his declining pace figures suggest he is up against it.