06/12/2002 11:00PM

Is Cellars Shiraz better than unknown import?


How does the form of a Grade 3 winner in the United States compare to that of a three-time Group 1 winner in Puerto Rico? The answer will come in the $100,000 Office Queen Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Calder.

Cellars Shiraz is by far the most accomplished U.S.-raced filly in the Office Queen, to be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Trained by Bill Cesare, she has won three stakes this year, including the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on the Gulfstream turf in February, and comes off a second in the Edgewood on the turf at Churchill Downs. The last time Cellars Shiraz ran on the main track she won the off-the-turf Gaily Gaily by 5 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream in March.

But Cellars Shiraz might be facing something special in Kud'zu Magic, who makes her first start in this country after an 11-race career in Puerto Rico. Kud'zu Magic has won Group 1 stakes at 2 and 3, and comes off a 6 1/4-length victory over males in an allowance race at El Comandante in April. In her only race longer than seven furlongs, she won a Group 1 stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

The Office Queen is Kud'zu Magic's first race for trainer Timothy Ritvo.

Four Pennies is the only other stakes winner in the field, having won the Cut the Charm by nine lengths at Calder last month. Trained by Manny Tortora, Four Pennies improved dramatically in the one-mile Cut the Charm, her first start around two turns. She put away 4-5 favorite Stormy Frolic before the stretch of that race and ran away from her four opponents.

Cellars Shiraz, Kud'zu Magic, and Four Pennies all run on or just off the lead. A possible speed duel among them gives the late-running Chit Chatter a puncher's chance. Chit Chatter finished well for second in the Cut the Charm after a slow start. She has improved in both her starts at the meet after running seventh and fifth in a pair of Gulfstream allowance races.

Tasso Run also would benefit from a speed duel. In her last start, she rallied to take the lead in the stretch of the Lenta on the Calder turf, but finished third, beaten a length. In January Tasso Run finished third in a two-other-than allowance on the Gulfstream turf, a neck behind Cellars Shiraz, who took second.

Although Tasso Run's last five races have come on grass, she won her maiden over the Calder dirt in December.

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