03/31/2005 12:00AM

Straight into the deep end

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The 3-year-old filly Jet Set Citi easily won her career debut on March 12, earning a 79 Beyer. That's nearly 10 points higher than the next-best sprint figure among her six rivals in the Saturday's $50,000 Smart Halo Stakes at Laurel Park.

A first-time starter often improves as many as 10 points on the Beyer Speed Figure scale in the horse's second career start. That could mean Jet Set Citi will be awfully tough to beat in the six-furlong Smart Halo.

Jet Set Citi's trainer, Hamilton Smith, has scored with 21 percent of his second-time starters since January 2004. He's running Jet Set Citi in a stakes because she is sharp, and he does not want to wait to run her in an allowance race.

"I usually don't like to go from maidens to stakes company," Smith said. "But the next allowance is about three weeks away and she's ready to run now. I've worked her behind horses, teaching her to rate, and she's done just fine."

Jet Set Citi's keenest competition could come from Speed Bag, one of two New York shippers in the field.

Speed Bag won three times during the winter meet over Aqueduct's inner track, including her last two starts, albeit against claimers and New York-bred allowance runners.

Flashy Three comes out of an allowance win going a mile at Laurel in which she got a career-best 79 Beyer. It was her first start beyond six furlongs. Flashy Three failed to break 70 in any of her three previous sprints, but did finish second despite a ton of trouble in the Toddler Stakes last December.

"She came over a little antsy, was washed out in the post parade, had to walk around when a horse got loose, stumbled out of the gate, got nailed in the face by the whip at the quarter-pole, didn't want to switch leads, and she still finished second," said Ryan Fogelsonger, who rode Flashy Three in the Toddler. "I think you are going to see a great deal from this filly."

Fogelsonger has gotten off Flashy Three, however, to ride Loch Nessie. Jozbin Santana picks up the mount on Flashy Three.

Missile Bay is eligible to improve making her first start off the claim for trainer Scott Lake. In seven starts dating back to last October, Missile Bay has not finished worse than third, mostly trying to clear her first allowance condition. That includes a runner-up effort in January in which she beat Speed Bag by 20 lengths.