01/19/2006 12:00AM

Turf Paradise: Steep drop for 'Kitten'

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The last time Karlee's Kitten raced, she had the misfortune of looking up and seeing Diplomat Lady, Balance, and Sabatini in the gate with her. She wasn't able to overcome that kind of opposition in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet at Hollywood Park on Dec. 18, but takes a significant class drop as she invades Turf Paradise for the $40,000 Sun Devil.

The mile race for 3-year-old fillies drew a field of eight.

, cross-entered in the one-mile Burlingame at Bay Meadows on Saturday, should be the heavy favorite if she runs in this spot, not only for the company she kept in the Starlet, but also because she was hardly embarrassed in that tough race.

Trained by Gary Mandella, Karlee's Kitten gamely won her maiden in a route at Hollywood on Nov. 20. For her first try against winners, she was asked to take on the big girls in the Starlet. She drew poorly in post 11 and blew the start to get away last. Karlee's Kitten appeared to be going nowhere, as she was last for some time, but she gathered momentum on the far turn and finished well, ending up fifth, beaten more than eight lengths. There were some nice fillies behind her.

She's certainly a proven commodity going long and has worked well since. Michael Baze has the call.

Among the locally based fillies, appears to have the best chance. Owned and trained by Eric Kruljac, Nezi O comes off a smashing maiden win. She jumped right out to the lead in a sprint on Jan. 9 and kept extending her lead, eventually winning easily by 5 1/2 lengths. She faces winners and runs in a route for the first time but may well have turned the corner.

has also shown ample ability. She won her first two outings impressively in November, including an easy win in the La Paz Stakes. She came back in the Arizona Juvenile Filly on Dec. 31 but was no match for the romping winner, Southern California invader Bully Bones.

Nezi O has worked well since for trainer Bart Hone.