01/10/2007 1:00AM

Stella's Posada looks hard to refuse

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Though he has never gone beyond 6 1/2 furlongs in his nine-race career, Stella's Posada still looms large in a one-mile $25,000 claimer for 3-year-olds, the nominal feature on Friday's Golden Gate card.

A gelded son of Star of Valor, Stella's Posada will be making his first start for Jerry Hollendorfer after being claimed from Doug O'Neill for $50,000 at Hollywood in early December. He is easily the class of the field, having raced competitively in minor stakes on the Southern California circuit as a 2-year-old, earning Beyer Speed Figures that are clearly superior to those of his six opponents. He set the pace before tiring in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar, so obviously he has quality early speed as well.

In the race previous to his claim, run over Hollywood's synthetic surface, O'Neill was able to steal a purse at the $32,000 level, with Stella's Posada wiring the field while in hand. O'Neill bumped him up to the $50,000 level, but Stella's Posada could not handle a pressured 44-second half and weakened through the stretch to finish fifth. Hollendorfer made the claim and shipped him to his northern California base, where he has worked steadily for his return.

With a pedigree perfectly suited for middle distances, Stella's Posada should have little difficulty stretching out to a mile. Leading rider Russell Baze has the mount.

Uartaphoneme has been steady at this level and has the tactical speed to take over should the favorite falter. He was an even fifth behind Stella's Posada in the $32,000 race at Hollywood, but comes off two good recent efforts at the distance at Bay Meadows. Danny Lopez rides for trainer Armando Lage.

Lage also sends out Valid Star, who comes off consecutive wins, the latest a front-running victory at the $16,000 level. Joel Rosario picks up the mount with Lopez hopping off to ride Uartaphoneme.

Crowning Moosa could pick up the pieces if there is a particularly hot pace up front. He made up some ground late off a troubled trip in his last, a quickly run first-level allowance. He will be making his third start off the claim by the sharp Lloyd Mason.