01/26/2005 1:00AM

Tough match for '05 debuts


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Jimmy Jerkens could have run Boston Express last weekend in The First Lady Handicap, but he opted to wait for what figured to be a softer spot, Friday's $37,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.

But as is so often the case during the winter at Gulfstream, seemingly softer spots suddenly turn into tougher races. Jerkens found that out when he learned that the competition in Friday's third-level allowance dash will include Grade 3 stakes winner Bohemian Lady.

Boston Express is a stakes winner and graded stakes-placed in her own right, having won Louisiana Downs's Dixie Miss by nine lengths and finished third in Calder's Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup at 3. But she has not started since her fifth-place finish in Woodbine's Grade 3 Duchess Stakes on Aug. 21, which was one reason Jerkens wanted no part of graded-stakes company in The First Lady.

, a 4-year-old daughter of Boston Harbor, has been working extremely well at Palm Meadows in preparation for her return. Her steady string of works dating back to Dec. 21 includes bullet six-furlong drills of 1:12.80 on Jan. 12 and 1:14.20 on Jan. 20.

, trained by Todd Pletcher, has also turned in very impressive workouts at Palm Meadows over the past five weeks, including one black-letter and two near-black-letter five-furlong works. A Carson City filly, Bohemian Lady showed promise right off the bat, winning three of her first four starts by open lengths, including the Grade 3 Cicada. Her 3-year-old campaign ended prematurely after an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Prioress on July 3.

Should Boston Express and Bohemian Lady need a race off the bench, Fall Fashion, Habiboo, and Forty Moves become the key contenders in the field of 10 fillies and mares.

comes off a much-needed 2005 debut here on Jan. 7 when she dead-heated for fourth after chasing the fast pace of the winner, Mystery Jules, into the stretch. The outing was the first since Aug. 23 for Fall Fashion, a stakes-winning Forestry filly.

has been graded-stakes-placed on two occasions, including a third-place finish in Calder's Chaposa Springs Handicap in her 2004 finale.

Forty Moves is a multiple stakes-placed filly who figures to get a nice trip off an honest pace.