04/13/2004 12:00AM

Solid effort expected off layoff

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - On the surface, the returning Broke in Blairsden seems like a pass in Thursday's Bay Meadows feature, a $50,000 optional claiming race at six furlongs.

The 6-year-old mare has not run since Aug. 22, and her career-best Beyer surpasses the career best of only one of her eight filly-mare rivals.

But numbers don't tell the whole story with Broke in Blairsden. She raced well against much better last year, and a repeat of any of her best efforts from 2003 would make her hard to beat Thursday.

Broke in Blairsden raced in top form the last time she came off a long layoff. She won a Bay Meadows starter allowance off a 10-month layoff on Oct. 18, 2002, her first start for current trainer Armando Lage. She won a Golden Gate allowance in her next start and then in January 2003 stretched out to a mile in the Work the Crowd Handicap there, finishing third. After running third in the six-furlong Orinda Handicap at Golden Gate, she won a $50,000 optional claiming sprint there before turning in a strong second in the $107,000 Irish O'Brien at Santa Anita last March.

Broke in Blairsden made four more starts before heading to the sidelines, with her best finish a third in a Bay Meadows optional claiming sprint.

Lage will be surprised if Broke in Blairsden doesn't run a good race Thursday.

"She was a little sour and sore last year," he said. "It was our judgment that she'd had too many hard races. Every time they give you the effort she does, you have to give them a break."

Broke in Blairsden seems to have come back fresh and eager, just as she did when she first arrived in Lage's barn. She's had six drills for her comeback, two each at four, five, and six furlongs.

"This filly is focused," Lage said. "She wants to train. One of the biggest things we've done is slow her down. Last year, she worked bullets, and if you work too hard, it's almost like running in a race. We've changed exercise riders on her and she doesn't go so fast, but her works are solid and steady."

Five Star Meeting has speed, is undefeated in two starts at the distance, and has the best last-race Beyer in the field. In her two starts this year, Five Star Meeting won a Golden Gate allowance sprint and finished second in a Santa Anita optional claimer.

Broke in Blairsden's stablemate Miss New York should be a factor with her speed from the rail.