09/02/2003 11:00PM

Canterbury arrival good fit in Top Flight


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Winnipeg Futurity winner is in town.

And what that means is about as clear as Arlington's Friday feature, the $45,000-added Top Flight Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Downgraded to an overnight stakes race this season, the Top Flight served as Arlington's stakes prep for the Arlington-Washington Lassie in previous years. There are nine fillies entered this time, but whether any of them are Lassie material remains to be seen.

None of these fillies has won more than one start, and two enter the race as maidens. Enter Ghostly Gate, who traveled from Canterbury Park outside the Twin Cities to a destination even farther north, Assiniboia Downs in Manitoba. Once there, she beat males by three-quarters of a length in the $40,000 Winnipeg Futurity.

"I didn't see the race, but they told me there was one pretty good horse in there, and she ran right past," said Hugh Robertson, who trains her.

Ghostly Gate came into Robertson's Arlington barn about three weeks ago after making her first three starts for the trainer Mike Biehler. Ghostly Gate is owned by Jer-Mar Stables, for whom Robertson picked out Ghostly Gate as a yearling.

"Of the yearlings they bought that year, she was the one I liked the best," Robertson said. "From watching her train, she's a pretty good filly, I guess. She's big and strong and looks pretty good."

Ghostly Gate has worked once at Arlington, an easy half-mile, and figures to stalk the early pace in the seven-furlong Top Flight. The pace horse may be Hot Mail, who led all the way, winning her maiden by more than seven lengths on Aug. 10 at Ellis Park.

Based at Churchill Downs with the trainer Steve Flint, Hot Mail attracts the services of Arlington's leading rider, Rene Douglas, and has drawn well in post 4.

Willow Cove also rates a long look, and her trainer, Steve Asmussen, has been heating up at Arlington. With three starts, Willow Cove has more seasoning than many of her opponents, and she was second here Aug. 17 to the solid filly Zosima in a first-level allowance sprint.

Of the others, Rebel Lil, Souvenir Doll, and I'm a Majek Girl all won their career debut, while Uncontrollable and Old Fashion Girl ran one-two in a one-mile maiden race here July 24.