02/15/2005 12:00AM

No mystery about who will set pace

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Mystery's Jules was 6-1 and Lilah even money when they met for the first time at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 7. But after Mystery's Jules ran away to a 4 1/2-length victory in the third-level optional claiming and allowance dash, the odds figure to be a lot closer when the pair meet again under similar conditions in Thursday's $37,000 main event at Gulfstream Park.

paid $15.80 for her easy victory here early in the meet, a generous price considering the speedy filly had captured 3 of her 4 previous starts, including an overnight stakes at Monmouth Park. As usual, there will be no secret to her strategy on Thursday as Mystery's Jules, a 4-year-old daughter of Jules, has registered all her victories using the same modus operandi of catch me if you can.

Trained by Scott Lake, Mystery's Jules is owned by the Home Team Stables and Frank Rupolo and will again be ridden by Robbie Alvarado Jr.

Lilah's last effort was disappointing because she was coming off one of the best races of her career, a five-length optional claiming and allowance victory at Calder for which she came within one point of equaling her career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 98. She was unable to menace Mystery's Jules, though, after getting shuffled back to the middle of the pack in the run down the backstretch. She finished in a dead heat for fourth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by the winner.

"She's getting a little older now," trainer Allen Jerkens said of the 7-year-old Lilah. "And you can never tell how she's going to run. She just needs to run her race and be clear making her move, and if that happens she can win."

sharpened up her speed last week, working three furlongs in a blistering 33 seconds.

"She's a fast filly, and that work was pretty much down a straightaway," said Jerkens, downplaying the exceptional time of the work.

Lilah, who has won the majority of her races with apprentice jockey Shannon Uske, will team up with another seven-pound-allowance rider on Thursday, with Rajiv Maragh taking the call.

While nobody is likely to keep up early with Mystery's Jules, several others in the field figure to be pressing her, including Kuanyan, Two Punch Gal, and Miracle Runner. Stormy Rosa, who has won her last three starts on dirt, has trained well for her return. Broad Hopes and Social Security round out the starting lineup.