05/25/2001 11:00PM

Squirtle Squirt faces challenge


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Squirtle Squirt has the right post and the wrong style. Early Flyer has the wrong post and the right style. When they gun seven furlongs Monday in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera at Hollywood Park, something is going to give.

The Barrera (race 9) and the Flawlessly Stakes (race 4) are part of an outstanding card that includes the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile (race 8) and a $1 million guaranteed pool in the pick 6 (races 5-10). To win the Barrera, for 3-year-olds, Squirtle Squirt must put away two other front-runners with blazing speed - graded stakes winners Skip to the Stone and Trailthefox.

"He's got a good post [6] because the speed's inside him," said Bobby Frankel, trainer of Squirtle Squirt. "I know he's faster than these horses, but I don't know if that's the way to win. I'll leave it up to Laffit [Pincay], he knows the horse better than me."

Squirtle Squirt is 5 for 5 under Pincay at Hollywood, including a blistering May 2 comeback in his first start for Frankel. Squirtle Squirt ran a half-mile in 43.46 seconds in that six-furlong race, earning a phenomenal pace figure. But he can only win the Barrera by putting away his pace foes early and holding off the closers late.

The possibility of a contested pace plays to the strength of Early Flyer, who is shortening from 1 1/8 miles to one turn. Winner of the Grade 2 San Vicente the last time he sprinted, Early Flyer's chances were compromised when he drew the rail. "He drew a horrible post; I hate the 1-hole," trainer Ron McAnally said. "Maybe he can overcome it with all the speed in there, and if Chris [McCarron] can get him to the outside, clear of all that sand hitting him in the face. If he's buried down on the inside, it's the kiss of death down there."

While the inside post has produced six winners from 31 starters this meet at seven furlongs, McAnally's concerns are legitimate. To win the Barrera, Early Flyer must take back, get to the outside, and run down a quality field. Early Flyer, 2 for 6 lifetime, will be racing at Hollywood Park for the first time. In addition to the main contenders, four longshots entered: Pie n Burger, Old Woody, Top Hit, and Way to the Top.

The Barrera is the second Frankel-McAnally duel of the day. In the Flawlessly, for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf, Frankel starts three of the six runners, while McAnally counters with Innit. Runner-up in the Grade 3 Senorita after a slow start, Innit faces a formidable Frankel trio: Beefeater Baby, who is 2 for 2; comebacker La Vita E Bella, making her first start in the United States; and Providencia winner Dynamous. East Coast shipper Voodoo Dancer has proper credentials, while likely pacesetter Tangoio appears overmatched.

Though inexperienced, Beefeater Baby has dropped hints of potential stardom. She overcame trouble to win her debut, which came sprinting, then was fanned wide and rallied from well behind a slow pace to win her second start with a tremendous turn of late speed. Frankel adds blinkers Monday because "she was ducking and diving everywhere. I worked her in blinkers, they made her pay more attention."

Beefeater Baby has shown she wants every bit of the nine-furlong Flawlessly distance, while Innit enters with a distance question. A five-time winner from

17 starts, she has never raced beyond a mile and she may have benefited from a slow start last time in the Senorita. A fast early pace flattered the closers, including Innit.