09/15/2004 11:00PM

Speed battle could cook She's Salty

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POMONA, Calif. - The $120,000 Barretts Debutante was merely the contingency plan for She's Salty if the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante proved too tough, which it did. Beaten 10 lengths at Del Mar, front-runner She's Salty aims lower Saturday at Fairplex Park.

But She's Salty will find the 6 1/2-furlong Barretts Debutante (race 11) to be no cakewalk. Ten will start in the race, which is restricted to 2-year-old fillies who were offered for sale at a Barretts auction, and an overflow of speed may cause bettors wagering on the $200,000-guaranteed pool in the pick four (races 9-12) to consider She's Salty a vulnerable favorite.

Trainer Doug O'Neill believes She's Salty is more than a one-dimensional speedball, although she has pushed blazing fractions in all her starts. Saturday, She's Salty faces three others with a similar style - Commitisize Me, Lunar Flight, and Berntstein's Babe. If they all go, the race could fall apart for a late-runner such as Bertha Jo.

"It sets up for her," said trainer Mike Puype, who claimed Bertha Jo from O'Neill on Aug. 12 at Del Mar. It was her second start, and the $62,500 claim price seemed reasonable. After she won and Puype and owner Ralph Trimm discovered she was eligible to the Debutante, the price was considered a potential home run. The Debutante winner will earn about $66,000.

"It's a chance to get all the money back in one swing," Puype said. "We'll never get a chance like this - this is not the group that runs in graded races."

Except for the favorite. She's Salty won a Del Mar maiden race by five lengths July 31, while flattered by an extreme speed bias. Maybe she is as good as the win makes her look, or maybe not.

She's Salty adds blinkers Saturday.

"She has a history of lugging out a little bit," O'Neill explained. "I know with blinkers on, the thinking is she'll be like a Quarter Horse. But prior to ever running, she showed she did not have to have the lead."

Commitisize Me is 2 for 2 since being purchased for $18,000 in May at Barretts, and she has worked super at Fairplex. Though she set the pace in both wins, trainer Leonard Duncan admits: "I don't know how fast she is because we've never turned her loose. If she opens up on them early, she'll be awfully tough."

Also entered are Mountain Meeting, Kathryns Birthday, Miss Bobbie Quick, Lunar Flight, She Will Get Away, Pearls O'Plenty, and also-eligible Mighty Clever.