01/27/2005 12:00AM

Bear Fan tough to beat if she breaks cleanly


Mooji Moo is the reigning champion in the $300,000 Filly and Mare Sprint after upsetting last year's race as a 17-1 longshot at Santa Anita. Mooji Moo will not be quite that big a price when she returns to defend her title in the six-furlong sprint at Gulfstream Park, but even her trainer, Tim Hills, admits she will be a decided underdog again in Saturday's rematch with Bear Fan.

The Florida-bred Mooji Moo led throughout en route to a three-quarter-length victory in the 2004 Filly and Mare Sprint, a race in which Bear Fan finished a troubled third as the 3-2 favorite. Bear Fan, a California-bred, bounced back from that setback to win her next four starts, three of those victories coming in Grade 2 stakes, and as a result she may go off the shortest-priced favorite on the eight-race Sunshine Millions card.

Bear Fan, a daughter of Pine Bluff, ended her 2004 campaign on July 10 with a second-place finish in Calder's Princess Rooney Handicap. She has been working extremely fast at Palm Meadows in preparation for her return and figures to control the pace on Saturday if she is able to break cleaner than she did in last year's race.

"She should have won this race last year by 10 lengths," said trainer Wesley Ward. "It's no problem getting her fit at Palm Meadows. Angel Cordero has been working her and he told me she feels like a million bucks."

Cordero books mounts for John Velazquez, who will be aboard Bear Fan in the Filly and Mare Sprint.

Unlike Bear Fan, who flourished following her Sunshine Millions setback, Mooji Moo has not won since capturing the race a year ago. A daughter of Jeblar, Mooji Moo was blanked in three tries upon returning from Santa Anita before being sidelined for seven months due to surgery on a hind ankle. She returned Jan. 2 to finish second in Calder's Born Famous Stakes on the grass.

"We were in the right place at the right time last year," said Hills. "Mooji Moo has never run a Beyer over 98 while Bear Fan has broken 100 numerous times, so obviously we're going to need a few breaks to beat her again. But my filly is doing well, had a nice prep, and sometimes you make your own breaks."

The presence of Bear Fan helped limit the Filly and Mare Sprint field to only six starters. The remainder of the lineup is Double Scoop, a 10-length winner of an overnight stakes at Calder in her 2004 finale, the consistent Alix M, Cyber Slew, and Really Royal.

The field

Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint
Purse: $300,000; 6 furlongs

1Mooji Moo (FL)M. Aguilar8-1
2Double Scoop (CA)J. Chavez9-2
3Really Royal (FL)E. Castro50-1
4Bear Fan (CA)J. Velazquez3-5
5Alix M (FL)C. Velasquez3-1
6Cyber Slew (CA)J. Court8-1

* All starters carry 122 pounds
* Odds by Art Gropper
* Television: 4-6 p.m. Eastern, NBC