02/08/2007 12:00AM

Single Laila's Punch? Maybe not


As the only stakes winner in a field of nine 3-year-old fillies, Laila's Punch may appear to be a lock and a likely single in the first leg of this weekend's Magna 5 wager.

Although Laila's Punch crushed six rivals in last month's Marshua Stakes, earning an 83 Beyer Speed Figure that compares favorably to the competition she will face in Saturday's $90,000 Wide Country at Laurel Park, there are a couple reasons for concern.

First, the one-mile Wide Country is substantially longer than Laila's Punch has ever raced. She won her maiden going six furlongs and shortened up to 5 1/2 furlongs for her six-length romp in the Marshua.

Count Eddie Gaudet, who trains Laila's Punch, as one of the skeptics.

"What with the inclement weather, I haven't been able to do what I wanted with her," Gaudet said. "The added distance has me concerned, too. I may end up scratching and just keep sprinting this filly."

Secondly, Laila's Punch beat a suspect group in the Marshua. Of the two fillies who have raced again, Deep Dish Wildcat regressed from a 61 to a 37 Beyer in an optional claimer at Aqueduct, while Shesadreamcatcher sank from a 43 to a 29 Beyer facing $15,000 nonwinners-of-three-lifetime claimers at Charles Town.

Those looking to beat the favorite ought to consider Wow Me Free. She is 2 for 2 going a mile at Laurel, including a neck victory against the grain of a speed bias on Nov. 18. She comes off a wide trip from a poor post in the Busanda at Aqueduct.

Bedside Story and Paying Off ran one-two in a quick seven-furlong optional claimer almost a month ago. Bedside Story's front-running win may not have been as good as it appears on paper. She was among four wire-to-wire winners on a nine-race card that day.

In contrast, Paying Off, a close third in the one-mile Maryland Juvenile Fillies Championship, may have bucked a speed bias when she came from 5 1/2 lengths off the pace to get second to Bedside Story on Jan. 11.