08/01/2008 11:00PM

Red Tomatoes makes return

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Red Tomatoes needed a vacation after she won a maiden race in her debut at Hollywood Park in May. She was bounced around between rivals in the stretch, prevailed by a head at 6-1, but came back with the scars to show she'd been in a battle.

"She had a big gash on her leg," trainer Marty Jones said. "She got bumped pretty good in the stretch. It took awhile to get cleaned up."

Jones thinks Red Tomatoes is ready for a comeback in an optional $25,000 claimer for California-bred females at Del Mar on Monday. Owned by breeder John Harris, Red Tomatoes may go favored in the six-furlong race that carries a $59,000 purse.

While Red Tomatoes was recovering, the quality of that maiden race was improving. Bea's Cee, who finished second but was disqualified and placed third, and original third-place finisher Distance Victory, both came back to win.

Red Tomatoes has worked steadily in recent weeks.

"She's had a couple of nice works," Jones said. "It took awhile to get over that [maiden] race."

Red Tomatoes beat 13 rivals in her maiden win but is part of a seven-horse field Monday. A closer, she should have a pace to follow from third-time starter Filter and the ex-claimer Inspiration Within. Red Tomatoes closed from seventh in her maiden win, making up almost seven lengths through the final half-mile.

"She's got to improve," Jones said.

Filter, who starts from the outside post, is making her second start of 2008. After beating California-bred maidens at Hollywood Park in June 2007, she was off for nearly 13 months.

"She got hurt and we had to stop on her," trainer Doug O'Neill said.

In her comeback in a six-furlong allowance race for statebreds on turf at Hollywood Park last month, Filter set the pace to the eighth pole before fading to finish last of seven, beaten four lengths.

Her speed could be an asset. Filter is likely to be outside of Inspiration Within and may be rated just behind that filly in the opening quarter-mile.

"She should move forward," O'Neill said. "She's drawn well."

Inspiration Within needed five races before she won a maiden claimer at Hollywood Park in May 2007. She needed seven additional starts before she won a starter allowance over 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on June 5.