11/13/2007 12:00AM

Speed sets up Swiss Diva

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif. - Handicappers who are fond of speed will like both allowance races on Thursday at Hollywood Park. The front-runners in races 5 and 7, however, face challenges that could inflate their odds, or lead to their defeat, or both.

Race 5 is a second-level allowance and optional $62,500 claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs on turf, and Victory Spy and La Tormenta figure to hook up early. Both have won the second-level condition, so they are entered Thursday for the claim price.

While Victory Spy (3 for 8) and La Tormenta (5 for 8) are arguably the best fillies in the race, their running styles are similar - both prefer the front end. It was not the place to be opening week, when only one of five turf sprints was won by the pacesetter - Faulkwood Shores won Friday after he walked the opening quarter in 23.01 seconds.

The pace will be faster Thursday. Victory Spy and La Tormenta routinely run sub-22-second opening quarters. Both are returning from layoffs, and both are vulnerable. The race should fall apart in favor of Swiss Diva, whose troubled trip last out provides a legitimate alibi.

Swiss Diva was racing in the Grade 2 Raven Run for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland, and it was a nightmare. She was shuffled back and steadied early, raced inside and behind horses throughout, and never did get a clear run in the lane. She finished eighth. The race was a throw-out.

After eight stakes, Swiss Diva is entered in an allowance Thursday, and the Paddy Gallagher trainee should win from behind under Agapito Delgadillo. Other starters include Pat the Cool Cat, Pindaric, No Lullaby, and Rapid Transaction.

The front-runner has a better chance in race 7, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for fillies and mares. Gothic Beauty has never run long, nor has she shaken loose. A 5-for-13 sprinter, Gothic Beauty should fall into the lead simply by default, and if she can stay the distance she can wire the field under Aaron Gryder. Peter Miller trains Gothic Beauty.

The main threat to Gothic Beauty is D Pirates Marker, whose three Cushion Track starts during the Hollywood spring-summer meet produced two wins and a second. A late-runner trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, D Pirates Marker is facing tougher after winning a first-level allowance at Bay Meadows by 5 1/2 lengths.

"She actually won quite easily," Hollendorfer said. "I expect more competition this time."

Garrett Gomez rides D Pirates Marker. Others include Angel Craft, Rivoltella and Kalookan Year.