03/10/2006 12:00AM

Nothing's ever easy for 'Marla'


ALBANY, Calif. - Marla Bay has been up against it, both on and off the track. Her career almost ended last summer when she hit the rail during a race, and since returning she has faced some real buzzsaws.

in the $40,000 Muir Woods overnight stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Golden Gate Fields.

Though she's not a stakes winner, Marla Bay has run second in the three stakes she has entered during her career, including the Grade 3 Yerba Buena here last May.

Marla Bay ran into Heavenly Humor and Somethinaboutlaura in her past two starts, finishing second to both of those stakes winners.

According to her trainer, Bill Morey Jr., Marla Bay is lucky to be racing at all. On June 18, she was cruising on the lead in an $80,000 optional claimer on the turf at Hollywood Park when she ducked into the rail, breaking through it. Morey thought her career was over.

"She was cut as badly as any horse I've ever seen," said Morey. "I thought we just had a broodmare prospect. I was watching her start to pull away and wondering just how good she was and how much she'd win by, and I couldn't believe how quickly it happened."

Under the care of Dr. Dan Shields and vets at the Chino Clinic, she was stitched up and recovered.

"It's just a shame she had to miss what was possibly the best time of her career," said Morey. In her previous six starts, shehad a pair of firsts, three seconds in which she was beaten by a combined total of less than three-quarters of a length, and a third.

Marla Bay was a strong second sprinting behind Heavenly Humor in her comeback after being sidelined nearly four months, edging the stakes winner Thrilling Victory.

But another mishap befell her when a chicken roosting in the barn was startled and flew down, landing on her back. Marla Bay thrashed around and cut a foot that had to be stitched up, then developed a nagging quarter crack. She was on the shelf for nearly another four months before running second to Somethinaboutlaura.