01/25/2007 12:00AM

Bayou's Lassie may run away with another one


Ever since she was switched to the turf last summer, it has been difficult to catch Bayou's Lassie. Four times in five starts, she has finished first, and the other time she was caught late and finished second. She will be seeking the richest prize of her career on Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf, where she once again looms as both the one to catch and the one to beat.

Bayou's Lassie appears to be the controlling speed in the 1 1/8-mile grass race, though her tactics may be dictated by Howaboutrightnow, who also has good speed and breaks just to her inside. Bayou's Lassie has sat just off the pace and won before, a strategy jockey Elvis Trujillo may be forced to employ. Her consistency makes Bayou's Lassie a formidable rival, but this will be her first start away from Calder, and it is worth noting that the only time she lost on turf, it was at nine furlongs.

Trainer Tom Proctor is hoping that the combination of distance and a bit of pace pressure will compromise Bayou's Lassie and benefit his mare, Rich in Spirit, who has had success against better during her career and comes off a tune-up victory at Tampa Bay Downs. Rich in Spirit has finished first or second in 12 of 17 grass races, including a victory last summer in the Grade 3 Locust Grove at Churchill Downs.

"Every now and then she needs her battery recharged," Proctor said Thursday. "We gave her a little time off before the race at Tampa, then ran her there with this race in mind. I'm a little worried that even though Gulfstream is a mile-and-an-eighth track, with a one-mile turf course, the stretch is not real long."

Charmsil, third in this race last year when it was run at Santa Anita, has won three times in four starts since and comes off a victory against a fourth-level allowance field at Gulfstream three weeks ago.

May Night is taking a drop in class after a steady diet of graded stakes races in the last half of 2006.

Just two of the 12 runners, Memorette and Fortunate Event, are California-breds. Memorette is the most accomplished of the two, having won last year's Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap. She is winless in four starts since then, however. She most recently finished ninth of 10 in the Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood Park, but that race has proven productive, with multiple next-out winners.

Fortunate Event won a first-level allowance at Santa Anita in her last start. She might be more effective with more distance, and she has a reputation of settling for minor awards, having finished second in 8 of her 25 starts, with 3 wins.