04/21/2005 11:00PM

Carlea looks tough to beat in Star Shoot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Fair Grounds shippers kicked some serious butt on opening weekend of the Woodbine meeting, and if the trend continues, it could take a lot to defeat Carlea in Sunday's $138,750 Star Shoot Stakes.

The six-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies has also lured the 2004 Canadian champion 2-year-old filly, Simply Lovely, who is making her first start of the season.

Carlea is coming off a commendable second-place finish over a speed-favoring track in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. She was previously second in the one-mile Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn, which came after back-to-back triumphs going six furlongs in maiden and allowance company at Fair Grounds.

Trainer Josie Carroll believes the addition of blinkers was instrumental in Carlea's progress over the winter.

"She won her first two starts at the Fair Grounds with blinkers, which focused her a little bit," Carroll said. "I stretched her out at Oaklawn, and she was second to Isabell's Shoes. She stalked Summerly all the way in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Runway Model tried to make a run at us, but my filly maintained her position and just couldn't close on Summerly."

Runway Model, Carroll noted, came back to finish second in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland.

Even though Carlea isn't a Canadian-bred, Carroll said there are ample spots for her at Woodbine this year.

"We wanted to bring her back for the program here," Carroll said. "She's been very successful sprinting. She ran three-quarters in 1:10 and change both times when she won."

Lemon Maid, another gifted invader from the Fair Grounds, is also in the lineup. Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Lemon Maid received the highest Beyer Speed Figure in the Star Shoot field, a 91, when she won her Feb. 25 debut in a six-furlong maiden special.

Simply Lovely captured three restricted stakes last year, two of which were at six furlongs. Her trainer, Bob Tiller, believes the winter-raced runners in the Star Shoot will have a fitness advantage over Simply Lovely, who will tote high weight of 123 pounds.

"It will be a tough chore for her," Tiller said, "but I think she's pretty ready. She's not a great work horse, but she's had three five-eighths works, and has done what we wanted her to. "

Higher World, victorious in the Grade 2 Mazarine BC Stakes at 2, was a fast-closing second in her seasonal bow in a stakes at the Ocala Training Center.