04/04/2005 11:00PM

Polyfirst better than last race might suggest

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ARCADIA, Calif. - All the even-numbered races Thursday at Santa Anita are downhill turf sprints. Defeats will be easily justified; no layout is trickier to negotiate. Lose the race? Just blame the course.

will be one of the choices in race 6, a nonwinners of two-other-than sprint for fillies and mares that is the richest race on the card. She will be favored despite finishing a dull fifth last out, when odds-on against similar over the downhill turf sprint layout.

"She looked like a winner coming down the hill," trainer Richard Mandella said. Things unraveled when she hit the dirt crossing. "She kind of got bumped, like they all do, and she took offense to it."

Did she ever. Polyfirst went from a pressing trip in a good spot, to being bumped, to going into neutral through the lane. She lost by five lengths at odds of 7-10. So is Mandella's justification legitimate?

"It's not a great excuse," he admitted, "but it's the only one I can come up with. She's training good now."

Polyfirst won her U.S. debut down the hill in impressive style, so when she runs Thursday she is merely returning to a course over which she already is established. So is Getthepartystarted, the one to beat.

has sprinted twice on the downhill course, winning both. A 5-for-15 mare, she steps up from a $62,500 claimer into the allowance ranks Thursday, and might be the sharpest filly in the field. Trained by Jenine Sahadi, Getthepartystarted has trained super since she last raced, and her four starts at various distances on the Santa Anita course have resulted in three wins and a second.

Other starters in this $52,000 allowance include Lady Libertine, who won an N1X downhill allowance last month; The Usual, a Cal-bred by super downhill sire Unusual Heat; and Dawn's Angel, who is trying a turf sprint for the first time. Longshots are , Quatrian, and Thunder's Echo.

In race 2, for maiden fillies and mares, Andujar will be favored after a promising U.S. debut. The favorite in race 4 is Cyber City Slew, runner-up under identical conditions. Race 8 is a $40,000 claimer for 3-year-old fillies. Droppers Love Ya and Western Blondy figure prominently.