08/03/2009 11:00PM

Cocoa Beach no longer so scary


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Only three rivals showed up to take on Cocoa Beach when she made her 2009 debut in the Floral Park Stakes. But after she finished fourth and last in her return, nobody is ducking the two-time Grade 1 stakes winner and Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic runner-up in Wednesday's $70,000 De La Rose Stakes, which is carded at a mile over Saratoga's inner turf course.

Sixteen fillies and mares were entered for the De La Rose, and 10 can start if the race goes as scheduled on grass.

Cocoa Beach began her climb to the upper echelon of the filly and mare handicap division last summer at Saratoga when she won her U.S. debut in the Love Sign Stakes. She then proceeded to sandwich Grade 1 victories in the Beldame and Matriarch around her second-place finish behind the champion Zenyatta in the BC Ladies' Classic.

Cocoa Beach went to the sidelines after a victory in her turf debut in Hollywood Park's Matriarch. She wintered at Keeneland before shipping to New York and finally returned in the Floral Park, where she raced forwardly before fading late over a sloppy track.

"We entered her in the Go for Wand but felt she wasn't ready to go nine furlongs against that caliber of competition just yet," said Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "We thought a mile turf race would set her up better for down the road. She really needed her last start. She got to laying in down the lane in that race, after which we discovered a little hind-end issue that's been sorted out. She's been straight and true in all of her works since the stakes and galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 in the last one."

Cocoa Beach is owned by Godolphin Stable and will be coupled in the wagering with Darley Stable's Skylighter, who is trained by Graham Motion. Skylighter was transferred to Motion's barn from trainer Bobby Frankel following her third-place finish in the Grade 3 Obeah on June 20.

Frankel was certainly not left empty-handed with the loss of Skylighter and will counter in the De La Rose with a pair of contenders, Modern Look and Savoir Bien.

Modern Look, a Group 2 winner in France, is winless in three starts in the U.S. Savoir Bien makes her North American debut after posting a pair of Group 1 wins in her native Argentina at 3.