07/12/2004 12:00AM

Tarlow will be tested in return

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Tarlow, who finished behind champion 2-year-old filly Halfbridled in two major stakes last fall, makes her 3-year-old debut in a $47,000 allowance race at Hollywood Park on Wednesday. The race is not an easy spot for a comeback.

The field of six includes Crowded Room, 4, who has won her last two starts, and Espy, who was fifth in her first start in 18 months in late May.

, who races for Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs, won a maiden race at Del Mar last August. At the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, Tarlow was second in the Oak Leaf Stakes and ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, losing both races to Halfbridled.

Following the Breeders' Cup, Tarlow underwent surgery to have a bone chip removed from an ankle.

Wednesday's race, run over 6 1/2 furlongs, marks her first start in nearly nine months.

Although Tarlow led briefly in the Oak Leaf Stakes, over 1 1/16 miles, Shirreffs would prefer that she race from a stalking position Wednesday.

"We'd like to see her get back to the way she broke her maiden, coming from off of it and not being the speed," Shirriffs said. "Just lately, she's been starting to relax."

, the likely favorite, is a closer. Trained by Marty Jones, Crowded Room has won two races for California-breds at this meeting - a maiden race over six furlongs May 14 and a first-condition allowance race over seven furlongs June 5.

She has not been worse than third in five starts, including two starts in two-turn races on turf.

"She's been running really good at Hollywood Park," Jones said. "She seems to have done well since we backed her up on one turn."

The move to a first-condition allowance race against open company will mean a jump in class. Jones is more concerned about finding sufficient pace for Crowded Room to follow.

"I think a fast pace helps her," Jones said. "When she broke her maiden they went very fast up front. She's had some fortunate trips with the pace. When you come from behind you have to be lucky."

The pacesetter is likely to be Madringa, who was second at this level June 20. She is winless in 11 starts dating back to her debut at Santa Anita in March 2003.

Espy showed speed in a maiden race in 2002, but was off the pace when fifth May 30.