11/23/2007 12:00AM

Wait a While, Precious Kitten fit right pace profile

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Early speed has been an advantage on the grass throughout the current race meet at Hollywood Park, especially in route races. During the six race days from Nov. 15-22 horses that were first or second at the first call in turf routes won 4 of 7 races.

That information might prove to be valuable on Sunday at Hollywood Park while handicapping the Grade 1 Matriarch, run at a mile on the turf, and the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, at 1 1/4 miles on the grass.

In the Matriarch, three of the six fillies and mares are likely to show early or tactical speed. Live Life led or was within two lengths of the leader at the first call in 10 of her last 11 races. But the catch is that she will have to improve significantly to contend.

The two contenders who are good fits for the way this course has been playing are Wait a While and Precious Kitten.

Wait a While led or was within two lengths of the lead at the first call in 8 of her last 10 races. Rate her on the form she showed in mid-year, when she reeled off four straight graded stakes wins, each by more than four lengths, and she is the filly to beat here. But the concern is that she shows only one good race from her last four starts. She ran well in her victory in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga, but in three other recent races finished a non-threatening second at 7-10, third at 9-10, and fifth at 1-2.

Precious Kitten led or was within two lengths of the leader at the first call in each of her last five races. She finished eighth, 11 1/4 lengths behind the winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in her last start, with an 85 Beyer Speed Figure, which is the lowest number she has earned in more than a year. Taken at face value that performance might be a concern, but handicappers who remember the way that race unfolded know that she didn't run badly. Precious Kitten was forced extremely wide around the second turn and through part of the backstretch, and lost all chance to contend. Under the circumstances, she ran well to lose by only 11 1/4 lengths. With a poor-looking last running line, Precious Kitten might be the betting value in the Matriarch.

Taking a look at the contenders in the Hollywood Derby, Daytona led or was within a length of the lead in 3 of his last 4 starts. He ran a big race last time when he dueled through a strong pace and pulled away to win the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby by 4 1/4 lengths. If he runs as well or better today he can win this race. The concern is that his Oak Tree Derby performance is the only race he has run that is good enough to make him a threat to win on the move into Gradeo1 company.

Nobiz Like Shobiz was a closer in his last two races, but in 9 of his 10 races before that, he led or was within three lengths of the leader. He made a bold wide move and flattened out and finished fourth, beaten by 2o1/4 lengths, last time against older rivals in the Breeders' Cup Mile. He looks best on the move back into a race limited to 3-year-olds, and if Daytona regresses following his career-best win last time, Nobiz Like Shobiz is good enough to win regardless of which running style he uses. But if Daytona runs another big race, Nobiz Like Shobiz will probably need to make use of his tactical speed to prevent being upset.

Among the other contenders, Medici Code regressed last time at Hoosier, and will need to improve while showing more tactical speed.

Twilight Meteor is a closer who might find himself battling the bias.

Bold Hawk is improving and must continue on the upswing to be effective. He was up close in some of his recent races, but the fractions were slower than the ones he will probably see here.

Worldly doesn't have quite as much tactical speed as some of the others and is a bit light in the Beyer department.

Warning Zone edged softer stakes rivals by only a half-length and will probably have to rally from midpack as he rises in class.