02/28/2007 12:00AM

Baghdaria returns in Sweetheart

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Baghdaria will make her first start since the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Friday night in the $75,000 Sweetheart at Delta Downs. The one-mile race could serve as her steppingstone to the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom next month at Oaklawn Park.

The Sweetheart is one of four stakes on the Delta card, and should produce starters for four rich closing weekend stakes here March 31.

Baghdaria finished seventh of 14 in the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. Prior to the race, she picked up her third Grade 3 win in the Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks in October. For her comeback, Baghdaria shows a strong series of works, her latest a bullet six-furlong move in 1:13.40 at her Fair Grounds base last Saturday.

"We think we're ready," said Tom Amoss, who trains Baghdaria for Casa Farms. "I think she's a stronger mare this year, both physically and mentally, than she was last year, so we're excited."

Amoss, who is 9-for-17 at the Delta meet, said there are a couple of reasons why Baghdaria is making her comeback in the Sweetheart.

"It's a good starting place," he said. "We're going to look strongly at the big race at Oaklawn Park in April, the Apple Blossom, but that's not a track that she's necessarily shown an affinity to. . . . So, rather than using the stakes there as a prep for the Apple Blossom, we're going to try something somewhere else."

The Sweetheart drew 10 fillies and mares, among them Sevillana, a winner of 10 of 15 starts in Mexico. Baghdaria will break from post 2 under leading rider Tracy Hebert.

"There's a lot of horses coming off of sprint races, and I think that's going to mean there's going to be an abundance of speed in there," said Amoss. "Baghdaria likes to place herself well early, so I really don't know what expect. I think it will be very much a free-for-all the first quarter of a mile going into that turn."

Bagdaria, a winner of $597,066, is a daughter of Royal Academy and a half-sister to Grade 2 Golden Rod winner Lady Joanne.

Mile: High Strike Zone may go favored

High Strike Zone, Dreamsandvisions, and Middleweight all look like leading contenders in the $75,000 Delta Mile, a one-mile race for older horses that drew a field of eight. High Strike Zone could go favored after a three-length win in a seven-furlong allowance at Delta on Feb. 14. For the effort he earned a Beyer Figure of 99, the highest last-race number in the Delta Mile. Trainer Amos Laborde has given the mount to Ricky Faul.

* Indigo Girl will be seeking her second straight stakes win when she starts in the $50,000 Mademoiselle, a five-furlong race for fillies and mares. Indigo Girl was a winner at this distance in her last start, in the $100,000 Premier Night Matron here Feb. 3. Her chief rivals include Ada's Dream, a multiple allowance winner, and Ocean Current, who owns the field's highest last-race Beyer, a 95, for her win in an optional claimer at Fair Grounds.

* There should be no shortage of pace in the $50,000 Delta Downs Express, a five-furlong race that drew front-running stakes winners Random Gold, Danieltown, and Chief What It Is. A duel would benefit Kim's Gem, who was second last out in the $100,000 Premier Night Sprint at Delta, and Believe Im Special, a stalker who is 11-for-24 in Vinton.