11/23/2005 1:00AM

Appealing Pond perfectly suited to Mia's Hope

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MIAMI - The conditions of the $40,000 Mia's Hope Stakes, carded for fillies and mares who have not won a stakes race of $15,000 twice at a mile or over since Sept. 15, have eliminated most of the leading members of the division from Friday's main event. The race will also give hard-knocking fillies like Appealing Pond and Wicklow Vamp an opportunity to earn another good payday before the influx of tougher Northern invaders over the next several months.

The Mia's Hope conditions are written to perfection for Appealing Pond, who won a similar overnight stakes, the $40,000 Cinnamon Girl, on Sept. 23. A homebred daughter of Appealing Skier, Appealing Pond rallied to a three-quarter-length victory over La Sami and odds-on favorite Shady Woman in the Cinnamon Girl despite taking up near the quarter pole. She then took nearly two months off before returning to finish third against considerably tougher opposition in the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap, which served as the co-feature here on Florida Million Day.

Appealing Pond has had a big year for her owner-breeder, Stanley Ersoff, winning 3 of 9 starts and banking more than $100,000. She'll carry 123 pounds while breaking from post 1 under her regular rider, Manoel Cruz, in the Mia's Hope.

Wicklow Vamp has more wins in 2005 than any other member of the Mia's Hope lineup, having captured 5 of her 13 starts this year and 4 of her last 5 over the main track. The Mia's Hope will mark the stakes debut for Wicklow Vamp, a former $12,500 claimer who is trained by Joe Calascibetta for owner Rhonda Kaczer.

Wicklow Vamp has not started since rallying to a 1 3/4-length decision over Special Report under third-level optional-claiming conditions on Oct. 9. Special Report flattered that effort by coming back to finish second behind American Miss in the Elmer Heubeck.

Cruz has also been the regular rider for Wicklow Vamp. Rajiv Maragh will take his place in the Mia's Hope.

A victory by Leona's Knight, one of two 3-year-olds in the lineup along with Pitanga, would be fitting since she is owned and bred by the Rose Family Stable, which campaigned Mia's Hope. Leona's Knight has kept a steady diet of stakes company this season but remains winless in 15 starts on the campaign. Her best performances were second-place finishes in the Office Queen and Regal Gal stakes and a third in the Capital Request Stakes. She finished fourth, four lengths behind Appealing Pond, in the Heubeck.

About 200 on grounds at Gulfstream

Gulfstream Park racing secretary Dave Bailey said about 200 horses have already arrived on the grounds, mostly from the recently concluded Meadowlands session, in preparation for the 2006 meet.

Expected to arrive within the next week is Preakness and Belmont hero Afleet Alex, who is part of a small contingent that trainer Tim Ritchey will have stabled at Gulfstream this winter. The meet begins on Jan. 4.