06/26/2006 11:00PM

Clash of fillies with upside


ELMONT, N.Y. - It is only a first-level allowance with a $46,000 purse, but considering the state of the 3-year-old filly division, Thursday's eighth race may open a window to the big time for either of the top contenders, perhaps both.

, a Stronach Stable homebred trained by Bobby Frankel, and Altesse, a regally bred daughter of A.P. Indy trained by Shug McGaughey, head the field of six, and drew, respectively, in posts 5 and 6 for the one-mile race.

On the inside, from the rail out, are Elliot's Exchange, Quippi, Generosity, and Raf and Ready.

is the lone entrant running for the optional claiming price of $75,000.

Sugar Shake and Altesse took a while to get their acts together, but turned the corner with front-running maiden victories at a mile earlier at this meet.

After rallying for third in her debut, Sugar Shake lost her next three starts as a short-priced favorite. But in her first start at Belmont, and second wearing blinkers, the light bulb went on, and Sugar Shake drove clear after setting a strong pace. Sugar Shake's Beyer Speed Figure of 94 for the maiden win was 15 points above her previous best, and higher than what it took to win the three most prestigious races in the 3-year-old filly division thus far - the Ashland (91), the Kentucky Oaks (92), and the Acorn (89).

Even so, Frankel is not quite ready to label her a prime-time player.

"She was disappointing us before," he said. "She's a nice, big filly. I've got to see improvement over her last race. Hopefully, she can improve a little more."

was off slowest from the inside post when unveiled at Keeneland, but has developed rapidly in two local starts, running many lengths faster each time. She was bumped at the start and bumped again while in traffic through the stretch on May 4, and finished a close third. That effort made her the darling of trip handicappers three weeks later, when she added Lasix and beat maidens as a much-the-best favorite, earning a Beyer of 90.

Meanwhile, handicappers who like turf sprints may want to take a swing at Thursday's pick six, because the first four races in the sequence, races 4 through 7, are scheduled as such, weather permitting.

Divisions of a statebred filly maiden sprint at six furlongs on the inner course are carded as races 4 and 6. Races 5 and 7 are statebred allowances at seven furlongs on the Widener course.