10/29/2007 11:00PM

Some favorites look worthy

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Post-time favorites have fallen short of expectations here this fall, and their slim 27-percent win rate (62 for 229 through Sunday) during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita spells potential trouble for three low prices Thursday.

Contrarians can always find reasons to bet against the chalk, and the knocks Thursday are obvious. Curiously Sweet (race 1) could be rusty returning from a six-month layoff, second-time starter Zilla (race 6) must improve off her seventh-place debut, and Mr Napper Tandy (race 7) stretches out after a flat fifth as the favorite in his U.S. debut.

The flip side is all three might simply be the best horses in each of three non-claiming races Thursday. Bettors will find out soon enough.

Curiously Sweet runs one mile in race 1, a California-bred filly-mare allowance that is her first start since a runner-up finish April 29 in the $200,000 Melair Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Curiously Sweet was laid off because of an ankle injury, and trainer John Sadler is excited the 3-year-old filly has returned in top shape.

"She's one of our best horses, and she's doing great," he said.

Good enough to win first time back? "Yes," Sadler stated.

Garrett Gomez will ride Curiously Sweet, whose rivals include closers Camelita and Beyond the Mark, front-runners Ask Sam and Cee My Tizzy Run, and comebacker Ol' Razzle Dazzle. Curiously Sweet, a lightly raced filly with a win and a second from four starts, stands out.

The 3-year-old filly Zilla is only a maiden, but hopes are high for her, too. Bruce Headley trains the likely winner of race 6, a maiden sprint for fillies and mares. Zilla was favored in her Sept. 26 debut, but everything went wrong. She hopped at the break, made a big move on the turn losing ground five wide, was seven wide into the lane, lugged in, went flat, and lost by 6 1/2 lengths.

By the time jockey Alex Solis got Zilla straightened out, "the race was over," Headley said. She's a good filly, those works [58.20 and 1:11.80] . . . she does them easy."

Solis is back aboard Zilla, a Stormy Atlantic filly who enters as the most probable winner on the card. Her main rival is speedball first-time starter Felicitee.In race 7, Mr Napper Tandy runs a mile on turf against 3-year-old allowance runners. A Group 3-placed European, he finished fifth in his U.S. debut sprinting on the hill. Trainer Jack Carava believes Mr Napper Tandy benefits from the longer distance Thursday, and he switches to Gomez.