12/23/2005 12:00AM

'Celestial' takes on history


Celestial Legend, an easy winner in each of her last three starts at less than even money, figures to be a prohibitive favorite again in Monday's $75,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship at Laurel Park.

Her substantial edge on paper, however, hasn't prevented trainers Robin Graham and Graham Motion from hoping that lightning strikes twice in the same place. Both trainers have entered half-sisters to previous winners of the Championship, which is restricted to 2-year-old Maryland-bred fillies.

Graham has Keep on Talking, the only filly besides Celestial Legend to come into Monday's race with more than one career victory. Motion brings Dress Grey from his base at Fair Hill, Md., back to Laurel, where she will attempt to stretch out after winning her maiden in a five-furlong sprint a month ago.

Last year, Graham and owner Skeedattle Associates took the one-mile Championship with Dixie Talking, who handled the longer distance in her first start after winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race. Gin Talking, the dam of both Dixie Talking and Keep on Talking, won the 1999 running of the Championship when the race was contested at 1 1/8 miles.

Keep on Talking finished second in her career debut at Belmont with an 80 Beyer Speed Figure that is within range of the career-best 88 Celestial Legend earned last time out winning the seven-furlong Toddler at Laurel. Although Keep on Talking comes into the Juvenile Filly off a 6 3/4-length win, her last three Beyers on dirt have declined into the low 60's.

Motion and owner Linda Newton won the 2002 Juvenile Filly with Coquettish. She and Dress Grey are both daughters of the mare Chemise. Dress Grey would have to improve substantially from the 62 she earned in her maiden victory to threaten Celestial Legend, who has moved forward on the Beyer scale in each successive start and won her most recent three races by a combined 19 1/2 lengths. Celestial Legend's only close race came in her debut, when she got up to win by a nose.

The most serious challenger to Celestial Legend might be Somethinaboutbetty, a Todd Pletcher-trained horse who posted a two-length win over maidens at Aqueduct, earning an 82 Beyer.