06/19/2007 12:00AM

Burmilla back after long layoff


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Eoin Harty was at Saratoga last summer, eager to run Burmilla in the Grade 1 Test Stakes, when the unbeaten filly came up with what Harty now describes as "a couple of minor issues."

Still unraced since then, Burmilla will face a different - and surely easier - kind of test Thursday when she returns to action in the feature race at Churchill Downs, a second-level allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Harty, a former longtime assistant to Bob Baffert who now fills a key role in the Darley Stable racing operation, said Burmilla is "fit and ready" to resume her racing career, which encompasses all of two races: a maiden romp at Gulfstream Park in January 2006 and a first-level allowance romp at Belmont Park five months later.

Burmilla, a 4-year-old filly by Storm Cat out of Nannerl, figures as a heavy favorite against six other fillies and mares in the eighth of nine Thursday races. Rafael Bejarano has the call.

"Obviously, she's a very nice filly with a fantastic pedigree and she showed quite a bit of talent in both of those races last year," said Harty, who has about 50 horses split among Santa Anita and Keeneland, with Brian Ange serving as his assistant at Keeneland. "We sent her down to Lexington to John Burke after she left out of Saratoga, and he's pretty much gotten her ready until she came over to us for her last three or four works."

The best Darley horses usually are assimilated into the Godolphin operation, the elite of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum's worldwide powerhouse stable, and Harty said he is inclined to believe Burmilla could be headed that way.

"Hopefully, she'll prove to be top-shelf material, and if that's the case, she'll go to Godolphin," he said. "She'll have to do more than win a two-other-than, but she's the kind of horses we're looking for right now. I'm anxious to see how she runs off the year layoff."

If Burmilla doesn't pick up where she left off, the Thursday feature could go to one of several would-be upsetters, including New Dimension, who has been knocking at the door at this level; Graeme Six, who went through her first allowance condition here May 25; and Chatham, who faltered last out but was good enough to be third in an Oaklawn Park stakes two starts back.

Jungle Storm, Angel of Love, and Wildcat Fan complete the lineup.