12/12/2008 1:00AM

Peppers Pride clearly looks beatable


LEXINGTON, Ky. - It would be Grinch-like to root against Peppers Pride, the undefeated New Mexico-bred mare, as she tries to win her 19th race on Sunday in what might be the final start of her career. She will be heavily favored vs. seven other New Mexico-breds going six furlongs in the $125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap at Zia Park, and it isn't hard to see why. A glance at the past performances of six of those seven opponents shows that she has already beaten them at least once, and most of them many times.

So what could go wrong?

Although it is probably the least of her concerns, Peppers Pride will be carrying 126 pounds while spotting her challengers seven to 13 pounds. But she has carried more weight than that in some of her previous wins.

You also have to wonder how long Peppers Pride can maintain her top form. So it might be significant that she had to work hard to prevail by only a length in her last win, while earning a 73 Beyer Speed Figure that is her lowest from her last 10 races, dating back to March 2007. If she doesn't run a better race this time, her win streak is likely to end.

The biggest threat to Peppers Pride might be the only rival in the field she has never beaten. Negotiablafections has only raced four times. She had a troubled trip and lost her debut against $10,000 maiden claimers, but she has been a different filly since blinkers were added for her second race. She defeated $6,250 maiden claimers by 4 1/4 lengths, $12,500 conditioned claimers by 9 1/4 lengths, and second-level allowance horses by six lengths. She toyed with her opponents in all of those wins, and earned an 86 Beyer with gas left in the tank last time. Negotiablafections will be carrying 11 pounds less

than Peppers Pride, and if Negotiablafections runs as well as she did last time, or continues to improve, she will have a legitimate chance to upset Peppers Pride.

While rooting against Peppers Pride might make you a Grinch, betting against her is entirely acceptable. Cheer for her during the race, and if she loses, hope that your selection is the one to beat her. If you're smart enough to anticipate her first defeat you might as well get paid for it. Negotiablafections is 10-1 on the morning line, which makes her worth a play.

Track bias key to On Trust outcome

Sunday's feature race at Hollywood Park is also a statebred race, the $75,000 On Trust Handicap. Early speed has been effective in one-turn races at Hollywood often enough to make it a factor, but it has been streaky, with periods when it has been difficult for the leaders to hold. The 7 1/2-furlong distance clouds the issue. If the jockeys on the speed horses are able to set a mild pace, their chances will improve. If not, the value of their early speed will probably be reduced at that distance.

If early speed is an advantage on Sunday, Dancing in Silks and Bamaha Breeze should benefit. Bamaha Breeze is undefeated in five starts, with four of those wins earned in Northern California. He beat $50,000 optional claimers at Golden Gate on Nov. 22 in his return from an eight-month layoff. The concern is that he will have to improve a bit on the class jump. Dancing in Silks just finished second in an open stakes at Santa Anita and likes this Hollywood surface, with 2 wins from 3 local starts. The 102 and 103 Beyers he earned in those wins would make him the horse to beat. He has been more tractable in his recent races than he was when he dueled and lost at this distance on May 25. He's my selection.

If early speed isn't holding, Lit'sgoodlookngray might get the best trip while tracking the two front-runners. He has been a steady runner this year with 3 wins, 4 seconds, and 2 third-place finishes from 11 races. He won his last two starts on this track, including an open allowance last time. If the track bias helps him, or if the speedsters go too fast early, he will be a serious threat to win.