06/12/2007 12:00AM

Top two prefer going a bit shorter


ELMONT, N.Y. - The seven-furlong distance makes for an interesting matchup between Dixie Dawn and Just Starting in Thursday's featured eighth race, a $47,000 optional claimer with second-level allowance conditions at seven furlongs.

Dixie Dawn and Just Starting both have been at their best setting the pace in shorter sprints.

Dixie Dawn, one of two 3-year-olds in the race, along with Debbie Got Even, won her 2-year-old debut at Belmont Park last July, and did not race again until the latter stages of Gulfstream Park's winter meet, when she finished fifth after steadying at the start. She resurfaced in the slop at Belmont on May 11, and reaffirmed her affinity for the local surface with a wire-to-wire score.

"The distance is a question mark, but she's ready to run and doing well," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "She's very fast - she should be on or close to the lead."

Just Starting, the lone entrant in for the $50,000 claim price, is a 5-year-old mare with far more experience than Dixie Dawn. She has an exceptional record of 11 wins from 21 starts, but has raced beyond six furlongs only twice. In her lone attempt at Thursday's distance, she finished next-to-last, and recorded one of her lowest Beyer Speed Figures.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Dixie Dawn drew the rail with meet-leading rider Eibar Coa, while Just Starting - who has been on the early lead in all four of her starts since adding blinkers - is drawn right outside her in post 2 under apprentice Jose Bracetty.

Karakorum Starlet is a consistent New York-bred filly who topped an open field of first-level allowance sprinters in her last start, so she pays for it by carrying 123 pounds. Even so, she drew ideally in post 5, and could be the prime beneficiary of a hotly contested pace duel.

"Hopefully, they'll bang right out of there," said trainer Jeff Odintz. "The only thing I don't like is the weight."

Mike Luzzi rides Karakorum Starlet, who has been first or second in 9 of 13 career starts. All four of her wins came at Belmont, including two at seven furlongs. "Every race gets a little tougher, but she runs every time," said Odintz.

Debbie Got Even makes her first start off a layoff, and has run well previously when fresh.