03/09/2004 12:00AM

Prado, inside post big plus

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The potent combination of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez assures Chase Gap will be the favorite in Thursday's $36,000 feature at Gulfstream Park. But the return of jockey Edgar Prado and a favorable post position draw may make the one to beat in the mile and 70-yard second-level allowance race for fillies and mares.

finished a length in front of Baiser d'Amour when the pair met under similar conditions on Feb. 18. Both mares lost a good amount of ground during the course of the race, although Baiser d'Amour was the widest of the pair after dropping to the rear of the pack during the opening half-mile.

Chase Gap eventually got her head to the front in early stretch before proving no match for Joyful Ballad, who ultimately drew off to a 1 3/4-length victory. Baiser d'Amour finished best of all, making up more than four lengths from the top of the stretch to the wire.

Chase Gap will be making the third start of her current form cycle, another factor which figures to attract plenty of mutuel support. Chase Gap went to the sidelines after winning her entry-level allowance condition at Aqueduct on Dec. 18, 2002 and did not return until mid-January of the current meet.

Baiser d'Amour shipped to trainer Henry Collazo following the conclusion of the Woodbine meeting last fall and has performed well in all four of her south Florida starts, including a first-level allowance victory on Jan. 29.

"She's really blossomed at the right time," Collazo said. "In her last start she dropped further back than usual after breaking from an outside post and then had to circle the field. I expect her to be a lot closer on Thursday breaking from the inside post. A lot of times the post position can really cut your throat."

Collazo was also excited at the prospect of getting Prado back on his mare. The pair finished second, beaten a neck by the red-hot Sun Brightia, on Jan. 11.

"Edgar had other commitments for her last two starts," Collazo said. "He really rode her well the first time."

Grindavik finished third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Baiser d'Amour, on Jan. 29 but bounced back with an impressive 5 3/4-length victory under similar conditions two weeks later.

Grindavik was credited with covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.30 and thus earned a career-best 90 Beyer for that victory. But a Teletimer malfunction which resulted in no official splits being posted for the race also puts the final time and her gaudy Beyer Figure somewhat in question.