04/01/2009 12:00AM

Two-year-olds move into spotlight at Los Alamitos

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The importance of 2-year-old Quarter Horse racing at Los Alamitos is on clear display on Friday night. The first maiden race of the year for the division is the feature race on the nine-race program.

In recent months, Los Alamitos's mixed meeting has been plagued by a lack of depth among older Quarter Horses, leaving ample racing opportunities for cheaper Thoroughbreds. The launch of 2-year-old racing should swing that toward Quarter Horses in coming weeks.

Friday's eighth race, a 300-yard maiden race, drew seven runners. The winner will be a horse to follow in the build-up to the first set of time trials on May 2 for the $400,000 Kindergarten Futurity. The finals are May 16.

Friday's maiden race is strongly influenced by the breeder and Los Alamitos track owner Ed Allred. He bred four of the seven starters, including Peggy Fires, who may go favored by virtue of her quick workouts in recent weeks.

Quarter Horses must have two approved gate works before being eligible to start, and Peggy Fires had the fastest 220-yard workout of the morning on March 6 - 12.50 seconds - and March 17 - 12.30 seconds. Peggy Fires is one of two fillies in Friday's race.

"She's looking pretty sharp," said trainer Scott Willoughby. "She should be extremely tough. It's her first time under lights, so you never know what's going to happen. We've schooled her quite a bit in the gate to get her to settle down and take her to the paddock to let her see the sights."

Willoughby acknowledges that in such a short race the start will be pivotal.

"I think she can win this race," Willoughby said. "The first jump away is the biggest thing."

Willoughby also starts Fabulous Fifties, a gelding co-owned by Allred and Ruidoso Downs track owner R.D. Hubbard.

"He might need a little more time to mature," Willoughby said. "I think quite a bit of him."

Willoughby has an 80-horse stable for Allred at Los Alamitos. That group includes 47 2-year-olds. Willoughby said he will have more 2-year-olds ready to start on Saturday, and next weekend, when 2-year-old races are expected to be more plentiful.

Friday's race drew starters from two leading trainers - Blane Schvaneveldt and Paul Jones.

Schvaneveldt, the track's all-time leading trainer, starts Tylerite, who worked 220 yards in 12.50 seconds on March 6 and March 21. Tylerite has drawn the outside post.

Jones starts Runaway Tyme, a colt from the first crop of Ocean Runaway, the 2005 world champion. Jones considers the race to be a prep for the Kindergarten trials.

"You never know how they'll do the first time," Jones said. "He's got a good pedigree. My colt is a little immature. He's a big colt."