07/06/2004 11:00PM

Shadow of Mine back at right level


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Shadow of Mine has not raced in nearly six months, but when the 3-year-old filly returns Friday night at Hollywood Park, she will face lambs instead of wolves. The handicapping dilemma is basic - class or condition? Because for the first time since her maiden victory one year ago, Shadow of Mine is not racing over her head.

"She's actually back where she belongs," trainer Beau Greely said of the first-level allowance. "She's trained well, and she's plenty fit."

Enough said. Notwithstanding her lack of recency, Shadow of Mine is the one to beat Friday when a field of seven 3-year-old fillies races a mile on turf.

In her last five starts, Shadow of Mine faced Ticker Tape (winner of the Grade 1 American Oaks), Halfbridled (2-year-old filly champion last year), and Mambo Slew (a graded stakes winner). Shadow of Mine did not finish in the top three in any of those races, including four graded stakes, but she was hardly disgraced, splitting the field several times.

"We gave it a big shot in the Breeders' Cup and turf stakes, and she ran well - she just had a few traffic problems," Greely said.

Following Shadow of Mine's troubled fifth-place finish Jan. 14 in a turf stakes at Santa Anita, Greely and owner Tom Nichols decided to give her a freshening and point for summer.

was considered for the $100,000 Flawlessly on Saturday, but Nichols and Greely started Five Nickels instead. Their decision was validated when Five Nickels finished second, giving Shadow of Mine a chance to run in the easier race Friday. Victor Espinoza rides Shadow of Mine, by Belong to Me, who has one win and $49,806 from seven starts.

A good effort Friday would give Greely and Nichols reason to consider the 3-year-old filly turf stakes at Del Mar, "even if she shows she needed the race," the trainer said. Shadow of Mine returns with a steady work pattern, and her respectable efforts against graded stakes company suggest she might be a standout vs. allowance foes.

The main concern is that the filly came up a small abscess in her left jaw early this week, but Greely said it is not bothering her.

"As long as that stays okay, she ought to have a good shot," he said.

Her rivals include Old Chinese Copy, runner-up at this level June 10 in her first start for trainer Doug O'Neill. Other starters are Normandy Princess, John's Kinda Girl, Champ's Rocket, K'ehleyr, and Broad Minded.