06/21/2006 12:00AM

Brite Steel will have to hold off Celtic Dance


SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - A field of nine fillies and mares will go postward Friday in the first stakes of the 2006 Marquis Downs meet, the $6,000 Early's Farm and Garden Handicap at six furlongs.

Topping the field are Brite Steel, the Saskatchewan division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society's 2005 champion older filly or mare, and Celtic Dance, the equivalent honoree from the local Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Brite Steel has won both allowance preps for this event, the first at a half-mile and the next at Friday's distance, where she hung on to score by a nose over She's Nifty, who also returns Friday. Trained by Hubert Pilon, Brite Steel has won 11 of 34 career starts with her front-running tactics.

Celtic Dance closed almost eight lengths in the last quarter-mile of the last six-furlong prep to finish 2 3/4 lengths behind Brite Steel. Celtic Dance won two stakes here in 2005, both at a mile or longer, but if there is enough pace to run at Friday she could be dangerous in the final strides.

She's Nifty and Picture the Answer are perennially among the top mares in the province and have won stakes here in recent years.

She's Nifty won two claiming races last year, one at Stampede Park in the spring and another at Assiniboia Downs in the fall, but generally prefers more distance than six furlongs. Picture the Answer, sixth behind Brite Steel in her only start this year, also prefers more yardage. Picture the Answer won the one-mile Mademoiselle Handicap for her only victory from just five starts last year.

Nothing Less and R U Ready Carmen should prompt the early fractions, while Princess Muldoon, Sit Tight, and Lunelle's Pride will all look for stalking trips.