12/05/2002 12:00AM

Babae, anyway you slice it


MIAMI - Despite carrying high weight of 121 pounds and breaking from the outside post, Babae is still the horse to beat when she faces nine rivals, including the Christophe Clement-trained pair of Strawberry Blonde and Volga, in Saturday's Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap at Calder.

The My Charmer is the best of four stakes races, each carrying a $100,000 purse, on Saturday's Grand Slam I program. The other stakes are the Tropical Park Turf Handicap for older horses on the turf, the seven-furlong Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap, and its filly and mare counterpart, the Chaposa Springs Handicap.

Frank Alexander, who trains Babae for owner Joseph Platt Jr., said post 10 should not be a problem for Babae, citing her tactical speed and the chute start.

"She's doing so good right now," he said. "She's won four of her last six starts, all stakes, and got beat a length to Tates Creek in the Diana. Her only real disappointing effort was the allowance race at Saratoga, and she got off bad that day."

Jorge Chavez, who guided Babae to victories in the Grade 3 Violet and Athenia handicaps in her last two starts, will be aboard again on Saturday.

"Jorge really rides her well," said Alexander. "He just lets her relax and set her own pace, and she really responds to him when he asks her to run."

Babae defeated Strawberry Blonde by three-quarters of a length in the Athenia but will be stretching out to Strawberry Blonde's favorite distance of 1 1/8 miles in the rematch, while also giving her a three-pound concession.

Strawberry Blonde has won both her starts at nine furlongs, including a third-level allowance race at Belmont in her U.S. debut.

Volga, Strawberry Blonde's uncoupled stablemate, was a Group 3 winner in France last season. She has held her own with some of the top runners in her division this season, including a fourth-place finish behind Golden Apples, Astra, and England's Legend in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington. She also was third in Woodbine's Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Handicap.

Calder's leading jockey Cornelio Velasquez rides Strawberry Blonde and Norberto Arroyo Jr. rides Volga.

Two Item Limit surpassed $1 million in earnings this year but will be making her turf debut in the My Charmer.

The remainder of the field is made up of recent allowance winner Wander Mom, Halo of Truth, Amelia, Queue, New Economy, and Abeula Esther.

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