03/04/2004 12:00AM

Bonnie Miss almost looks like match race


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There was a decided lack of interest in Saturday's Bonnie Miss Stakes. Only five fillies were entered for the event - a surprising development considering that it has Grade 2 status, offers a lucrative $200,000 purse, and is the premier race for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park.

But the short field is certainly not a problem for trainers Allen Jerkens and Carl Nafzger, who will send out the two most likely winners, , in the 1 1/8-mile Bonnie Miss.

Society Selection and Last Song finished a neck apart - third and fourth, respectively - four weeks earlier in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes. And they won't have to contend with Miss Coronado or Eye Dazzler, the first two finishers in the Davona Dale, when they meet again Saturday.

Jerkens, who trains Society Selection for breeders Irving and Marjorie Cowan, was happy to hear about the small field.

"When there's only five in there, it's one less to beat than if there's six," said Jerkens.

Society Selection was bet to 4-5 for the Davona Dale, despite the fact that it was her first start since finishing a troubled 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in October. She raced just off a relatively slow pace in the Davona Dale and finished willingly, but fell a head and a neck short of catching the pacesetting winner, Miss Coronado.

"I was pleased with her effort last time and expect her to get better with that race behind her," said Jerkens. "A lot of these races are decided by how they shape up. I'd like her to be back a little again Saturday, but if there's no speed in the race it might be hard to get her back."

Last Song was hung wide the entire trip in the Davona Dale, but she challenged for the lead for much of the final half-mile, then succumbed grudgingly in deep stretch to finish fourth. In her previous start, Last Song dominated first-level allowance rivals by nearly nine lengths after racing farther off the pace.

Society Selection and Last Song will break from posts 4 and 5, respectively, in the Bonnie Miss.

From the rail out, the rest of the field is Journey Fever, Marina de Chavon, and Rare Gift. Marina de Chavon, a tiring fifth in the Davona Dale, was originally pointing for next week's Tampa Bay Oaks but was supplemented to the Bonnie Miss for $6,000 when her connections learned there were only four other fillies in the race.