05/18/2008 11:00PM

Silk Thunder battles winners

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It took three races for Silk Thunder to beat maidens, finally doing so at Santa Anita on April 20. The success may have gone to her head, trainer Eoin Harty said.

"She was sitting on a big race when she won, and I think she's sitting on another big race," Harty said.

Harty is hoping Silk Thunder can improve when she starts in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, a race that will be Silk Thunder's first start against winners.

"I expect another good performance," he said. "I think she's capable of winning."

Owned by Mercedes Stable, Silk Thunder, 3, fought for the lead throughout her maiden win over 5 1/2 furlongs, drawing off in the final furlong to win by a length.

"She was hooked every step of the race," Harty said. "That was at Santa Anita when speed wasn't carrying."

Purchased for $185,000 as a yearling in 2006, Silk Thunder finished second in her debut at Santa Anita on Feb. 18 and returned to finish seventh as the 9-10 favorite in a maiden race on March 30.

"I ran her back too soon off a huge effort in her first race," Harty said.

Silk Thunder is likely to dispute the lead in Wednesday's race, which has a purse of $51,000. She could fight for the early lead with Casino Kay, who was third in an allowance race at Santa Anita on April 14, or Sailor's Sister, who was a troubled third in an optional claimer here April 25.

If the pace is too hot, Puff Maddie is a threat from off the pace. Trained by John Shirreffs, Puff Maddie beat maidens in her second career start, but was a troubled fourth in her debut against winners on April 14.

In the fifth race, an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles on the main track, trainer Bruce Headley starts the entry of Sangay and Silver Swallow. Sangay won the Warren's Thoroughbred Stakes for statebreds on April 27 and is making her first start around two turns.

Silver Swallow placed in four stakes last year, including a second to Rags to Riches in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks in March. Silver Swallow was third in an optional claimer over seven furlongs on April 18, her first start of the year.

"They're both sharp fillies," Headley said. "I think they both have a good chance."

Two Times Won, the runner-up in the April 18 optional claimer, is part of Wednesday's field.