09/20/2004 12:00AM

Cherokee Spires must save fuel


POMONA, Calif. - Cherokee Spires will be favored to extend her winning streak to three when she starts as an overwhelming favorite Wednesday in the $60,000 Black Swan Stakes at Fairplex Park.

Eight juvenile fillies entered the Black Swan, a 1 1/16-mile race that marks a new challenge. Cherokee Spires's first three races were one-turn sprints. She races three turns Wednesday on the five-eighth-mile Fairplex oval.

"The way she ran at Del Mar, I think she'll do it," trainer Cliff Sise said. "She acts good right now."

Following a troubled fifth-place debut, won a $40,000 maiden claiming race by more than six lengths, and followed with a 1 3/4-length victory Sept. 3 in a maiden-40 starter allowance. The Beyer Speed Figures she earned - 59 and 61 - top the Black Swan lineup, and bettors are expected to wager accordingly.

But there is more to handicapping a juvenile route than identifying high figures. Cherokee Spires pushed a fast pace last out, and must do something new - conserve energy - on Wednesday to win on the stretch-out under Iggy Puglisi. Owned by co-breeders Ray Brogulere and Fred Caruajal, she will need a good effort in the Black Swan to earn a start in the $125,000 California Cup Juveniles Fillies on Oct. 16 during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.

The dilemma is that the other seven entrants are slow - none has exceeded a Beyer Figure of 59. Furthermore, the favorite is the only entrant with more than a maiden victory. Contenders include the maiden Irish Mafia, whose closing fifth-place finish one start back makes her a fit; Kachina Dream, who won a slow maiden claimer last out and is the only starter who has won over a route; and Artabegood, who blew a 4 1/2-length lead last time. Real Spitfire, Raiderette, Savanna Charm, and Burning Affair also were entered.

Artabegood may start as the second choice, though her inability to hold a 4 1/2-length lead 12 days ago suggests distance limitations. The filly who beat her, Kachina Dream, is improving with distance. Kachina Dream was void of speed in two starts at Del Mar going 5 1/2 furlongs. After her second start, a fifth-place finish, jockey Tyler Baze said to trainer Mel Stute, "Wait until she goes long."

Stute sent her long Sept. 10 at Fairplex, and she overcame a difficult trip to win by a length under Matt Garcia with a Beyer of 47. If the favorite cannot stay, Kachina Dream could give Stute his record 43rd career stakes win at Fairplex.