01/18/2007 12:00AM

Absence of top sprinters fine for Malibu Mint


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Next weekend's Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint stole some of the thunder from Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 First Lady Handicap. But it couldn't take away Grade 1 winner Malibu Mint, a Kentucky-bred who figures to be the solid choice over seven rivals.

Grade 1 winner Swap Fliparoo was among several elite filly and mare sprinters who passed the six-furlong First Lady for the more lucrative Sunshine Millions, which is restricted to Florida-breds and California-breds. That gives Malibu Mint a golden opportunity to add a little more black type to her victories a year ago in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney, Grade 2 Top Flight, and Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America stakes.

A 5-year-old trained by James Chapman, Malibu Mint won 3 of her last 4 starts to close out her 2006 campaign, in which she earned more than $665,000 for owners Martha Jane and John Mulholland. Her only loss in those four starts came in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, in which she had a wide trip and finished 12th over the inside-favoring Churchill Downs strip.

A stretch-runner, Malibu Mint should have plenty of pace to chase in the First Lady. She will be ridden by Kristi Chapman and carry high weight of 120 pounds.

The most intriguing member of the First Lady field is Contrast, an injury-plagued 5-year-old who has won 4 of 5 career starts. A daughter of Unbridled and Safely Kept, Contrast won her first two starts before chipping a knee while finishing third in the Beautiful Day Stakes at Delaware Park in June 2005. She returned to win both of her starts last season, but has been idle since she hurt her foot when she won Delaware Park's Candy Eclair Stakes on June 20.

"She's had so many problems, but she looks better now than she ever has, so hopefully she's over it," said Alan Goldberg, who trains Contrast for the Jayeff B Stables. "She's training well and hasn't missed a beat since she got down here. There's one pretty nice filly in this field, otherwise it's just a race."

While trainer Allen Jerkens held Swap Fliparoo out of the First Lady, he will be represented by stakes winner Any Limit, who has turned in a couple of blistering works in preparation for the race.

Annabill has won her last three starts, including a game victory over Grecian Lover in the Chaposa Springs Stakes at Calder on Dec. 30.