04/14/2005 11:00PM

Comeback starts for Nashinda


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Handicappers will have to decide whether to go with fitness or freshness in Sunday's $138,000 Whimsical Stakes, a six-furlong dash for fillies and mares at Woodbine.

Nashinda is arguably the most talented runner in the nine-horse field, but she hasn't raced in over nine months. Big Cheque and Silver Bird, both of whom raced this winter, are both winless since 2003, but they should have a big fitness advantage on their rivals.

, a lightly raced 4-year-old, captured the My Dear Stakes at 2. Her most recent outing was a dull performance in a grass stakes in July 2004, when she finished fifth.

Trainer Mac Benson said Nashinda was sidelined because of bone bruises.

"It was the same thing that Smarty Jones had," Benson said. "We just gave her some time. She's doing really good right now."

Because of a lack of rain, Woodbine's main track was deep and tiring earlier this week. Benson said he hopes Nashinda's works over the deep Payson Park surface in Florida all winter will give her an edge over those who have been training locally.

"I would like to think it would," Benson said. "Whether or not it does, I don't know. I don't think it will hurt us any. Her works at Payson were solid, but nothing sensational."

Nashinda blew out three furlongs in a bullet 34.80 seconds over the main track here Friday.

Big Cheque ran third in her Gulfstream opener, but was beaten 39 lengths after flashing speed in another optional claimer there Jan. 28. Trainer Abraham Katryan said he is content with the way Big Cheque has come up to this engagement.

"She looks like she's ready," Katryan said. "I guess a little racing fitness really makes a difference with her."

Silver Bird was second in 4 of 6 starts in 2004, including three stakes. She never threatened in her March 21 seasonal bow in a minor stakes at the Ocala Training Center.

Versatile stakes winner Kissed by a Prince has trained forwardly for her seasonal debut, according to regular rider Dino Luciani.

"Her workouts have been great," Luciani said. "It seems like she's matured a lot. If things set up well for her, she'll come running."

The retirements last fall of near-champions Winter Garden and Brass in Pocket has left a huge hole in Woodbine's female sprint division. Bob Tiller, who trained them both, will saddle longshot Whispertoascream in the Whimsical.

"She's eligible to a two-other than, but this isn't a good stakes," Tiller said. "I wish we had another work into her, but she's happy and in good order."