10/22/2001 11:00PM

Timing is perfect for Escape With Me to win another race


ARCADIA, Calif. - Handicappers may debate Escape With Me's credentials in the sixth-race feature Thursday at Santa Anita, but two days before the Breeders' Cup, few will dispute her timing.

Sired by 1991 Juvenile winner Arazi, and produced by 1994 Sprint runner-up Soviet Problem, Escape With Me does not need a championship-caliber performance Thursday against seven California-bred fillies and mares in a first-condition, six-furlong allowance. Pedigree aside, Escape With Me ran fast enough in her maiden win Aug. 24 to suggest she fits against winners.

Among those who entered the $42,000 allowance were Proud Tammie, who ran like a short filly in her comeback; Memoree, who has flirted with success in similar spots; late-running Our Here Tiz; and lightly rated Bella Drive. None possess bloodlines as promising as Escape With Me, nor do they seem to have her ability.

The 3-year-old Escape With Me debuted April 28 while being trained by Bob Baffert, broke slowly from the Hollywood Park rail, and finished 12th of 14. Owner-breeders Don Valpredo and John Harris subsequently transferred the filly from Baffert to trainer Carla Gaines, and were met with similar results when she returned July 23 at Del Mar. She finished last of six.

The third time was the charm Aug. 24. Escape With Me pressed the pace in a Cal-bred maiden race, broke it open into the lane, and won by three. She earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for the victory in 1:10.31, and her 44.66-second half-mile time earned an outstanding pace figure. The allowance race Thursday marks Escape With Me's fourth start, and if she reproduces her maiden win, she should score again under Mike Smith.

However, she does not enter without flaw. Escape With Me was the 7-2 program favorite on Oct. 4, but got sick and was a late scratch. Meanwhile, several of her rivals Thursday did compete Oct. 4, including one who needed the race desperately.

Proud Tammie had not raced in eight months when she inherited the role of favorite. Trained by Jerry Fanning, Proud Tammie was bet to 2-1, pressed the pace inside, and threw in the towel. It is fair to say she is eligible to improve second start back. Win or lose, she helps insure a legitimate pace.

Thursday's eight-race card drew a total of only 57 runners.