05/17/2006 12:00AM

Proudest Moment in off win

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Armando Lage said it was love at first sight with the filly Proudest Moment, and she has returned his feelings by becoming a profitable claim.

has not failed to cash a check for Lage in seven races since he claimed her for $32,000 at Bay Meadows last Sept. 29. She comes off a big win on Gold Rush Day at Hollywood Park on April 30 and appears a strong contender as she runs in first-level allowance competition against eight other fillies and mares in Friday's Bay Meadows feature at six furlongs.

Proudest Moment ran fifth as the odds-on favorite in her northern California debut in a $40,000 optional claimer. When she surfaced for a tag in her next race, Lage claimed her.

Lage said he was familiar with Proudest Moment's pedigree because he trains for her breeder, Don Valpredo. He was impressed with some of her races in Southern California, and when Proudest Moment came up north, "I fell in love with her," he said.

Proudest Moment was a wide fifth in her debut for Lage; her rider dropped the whip. She was given two months off as Lage tried to correct a throat problem. She got away poorly first start back but won her next start and has been at the top of her game every since.

"She's been a good-luck horse for us," Lage said. "She went down south and ran in a Cal-bred allowance race but lost. She came back on Gold Rush Day in a $70,000 allowance race and won, but since it was a Cal-bred race, she's still eligible for this open condition."

Proudest Moment has shown more speed of late, but she should have some pace pressure to deal with.

graduated in wire-to-wire style in her last start.

Proudest Moment's recent races suggest, though, that she should be able to get the lead. She has recorded sub-45-second half-mile fractions in her past three starts.

"She's been showing faster opening quarters of late, but we believe she runs better when she has something to run at," Lage said.

Friday night's race will be her first under the lights, but Lage said that shouldn't be a major factor for her or any of her rivals.

"She's galloped under the lights in the early morning," he said. "Lights don't bother most horses."