08/01/2007 6:40PM

From the AE List to the Winner's Circle

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All's well that ends well, but Fantastic Shirl, who won the featured De La Rose Wednesday at Saratoga, would not have been permitted to start if there hadn't been a scratch from the body of the race this morning that allowed her to get in from the also-eligible list.

This sounds nutty, given that Fantastic Shirl had earned more money on the grass than any of the 13 other entrants and arguably should have been favored off stakes-placings such as her third in the G2 Jenny Wiley to major winners My Typhoon and Precious Kitten. The race conditions said "Condition eligibility preferred" and "Ties broken by total turf earnings," so how could she not crack the top 10?

Andrew Byrnes, NYRA's stakes coordinator, explained that under the "condition eligibility preferred" part of the conditions, stakes-winners get in first, even if those stakes are on the dirt or abroad. That put eight other fillies with smaller grass bankrolls in front of Fantastic Shirl. She then was bumped down to 11th (in a field limited to 10 starters) because two other non-stakes-winners, A Different Tune and Beat the Band, had won N3x allowance races while Fantastic Shirl's last victory before her string of stakes placings was in a N2x allowance.

No harm done, as Argentine dirt stakes-winner Star Prize scratched this morning, Fantastic Shirl got the last spot, and she split horses late to win impressively at 9-2. Byrnes said the racing office would revisit these eligibility conditions before next year's De La Rose.