09/02/2004 12:00AM

Beret just needs to get out of gate


Saturday's $75,000 Dade Turf Classic at Ellis Park could be decided mere strides from the gate.

Beret, a deep closer, won't win the race in the first few jumps; she could lose it. She has stumbled and thrown her rider at the start in two of four starts this year.

But she won easily in the two races in which she broke cleanly, including in her last race when she beat a comparable overnight handicap field over the Ellis Park grass course.

Working in her favor in the 1 1/16-mile Dade Turf Classic is the presence of jockey Dean Butler, who is 2 for 3 aboard the mare - without ever getting tossed at the start. Butler rode her to a 1 1/4-length victory over Silent Stream in an allowance at Churchill Downs July 3, and in her overnight handicap victory at Ellis Aug. 15.

Beret, a 5-year-old daughter of Royal Academy owned by Nancy Vanier and Lyda Williamson and trained by Harvey Vanier, outfinished Dade Turf Classic starter May Gator by 2 1/4 lengths in that overnight handicap when receiving a three-pound weight concession.

Racing under allowance conditions in the Dade Turf Classic, each carries highweight of 121 pounds, along with Wildwood Royal. That trio spots the opposition two to four pounds.

May Gator, like Beret, is a winner over the Ellis turf course. She took an overnight handicap at Ellis in July, and has 2 wins and 2 seconds in 5 career starts over the local course. She has made $107,775 this year, second highest in the field behind Wildwood Royal and her $153,100 bankroll in 2004.

Wildwood Royal does not have the turf experience of May Gator and Beret. She has competed twice on turf, winning once in a maiden race at Kentucky Downs in 2002. Her other turf race came in an entry-level allowance at Keeneland the following year, when she faded to eighth after setting the pace.

She has since flourished, winning nine races on dirt, including two stakes this year. She faded to fourth after setting the pace in the Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap at Ellis Park Aug. 7.

Completing the field are Border Blues, defending champion Reason to Talk, Playa Maya, Babeth, Tempus Fugit, Small Promises, Ellens Lucky Star, and Dick's Chick. Small Promises is entered for the main track only.

* Saturday's 11-race card also includes a $38,000 overnight handicap for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on turf. Unbridled Echo, 2 for 2 on grass, heads a field that includes stakes winners Rich Find and Slewpy's Storm.