05/26/2005 11:00PM

Speed vs. consistency in stakes

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A wickedly fast speedball who has never run two alike, and a consistent stakes winner who has never raced on turf are the key starters Sunday in the $75,000 Manhattan Beach Stakes at Hollywood Park.

is one of the fastest fillies in California, and Grade 3 winner Short Route is one of the most willing. Those two will attract much of the wagering in the Manhattan Beach, a 5 1/2-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies that drew a field of 11.

If the real Brooke's Halo shows up, she can run her rivals ragged. But she does not always show up. Brooke's Halo wilted after a half-mile in two previous stakes; trainer Jeff Mullins attributes both poor efforts to track condition. In her most recent start April 14 at Keeneland, Brooke's Halo finished last of five.

"It was a drying-out track, and she just floundered," Mullins said.

She did the same thing in January at Santa Anita when she surrendered early on a wet-fast track. The key for Brooke's Halo is simple, according to Mullins.

"We just need a firm surface, and it's as firm as you get at Hollywood," he said.

Based on a romping wins in her debut and a March allowance, 2-for-4 Brooke's Halo enters as the fastest horse in the race, with crisp recent workouts.

"If she takes to the grass, she should be fine," Mullins said.

In fact, she should be gone.

may not be as fast as Brooke's Halo, but she is more accomplished. Short Route has won 3 of 7, including the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes four weeks ago, and trainer Joe Herrick expects she will handle turf. Sired by Mud Route, her second dam is Grade 1 turf winner Short Sleeves. Herrick said Short Route's big feet suggest she can run on turf.

She also has a big heart.

"She's so game - she doesn't mind coming up the rail, and she doesn't mind coming inside horses," Herrick said.

Short Route shortens from seven furlongs, and if Brooke's Halo falters out front, Short Route can win from behind.

Trainer Ron McAnally entered , a French import.