01/10/2006 12:00AM

Cotopaxi working fast for new barn


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Dallas Stewart has had Cotopaxi in his barn for only two months but so far likes what he sees. He will be able to make a better judgment about Cotopaxi by late Thursday afternoon after she makes her East Coast debut as the one to beat in the featured eighth race at Gulfstream Park.

was turned over to Stewart after being purchased by owners John Gunther and Anthony Holmes at the Keeneland November sales. She has worked four times since shipping to Gulfstream, most recently drilling a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 over the main track on Sunday.

"She's doing well since I've had her, although her previous connections told us she's always trained good on the dirt even though she's never run on the main track," said Stewart. "I was thinking about putting her in the stakes here this weekend, but she might not get in, which is why I entered her in the race on Thursday."

Thursday's $35,000 feature is at 1 1/16 miles on the grass under second-level allowance conditions. Cotopaxi, who began her career in France, comes into the race off a steady diet of stakes competition, including a fifth-place finish when beaten just five lengths by Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Intercontinental in Del Mar's Grade 2 Palomar Handicap. She also finished in front of Grade 1 winner Ticker Tape when second-best in Del Mar's Osunitas Handicap earlier last summer.

Rafael Bejarano has the call on Cotopaxi.

Trainer Christophe Clement counters with another former European runner, Moon Dazzle, owned by Bernard Kantor. A 5-year-old daughter of Kingmambo, Moon Dazzle was second in a listed stakes in Great Britain at 3, then spent the early part of her 2005 campaign in the United Arab Emirates, where she won one stakes and finished eighth in the Grade 1 Dubai Duty Free Stakes.

was then sent to Clement for a fall campaign, during which she finished second twice under second-level allowance conditions and third in Laurel's April Run Stakes.

Two of the more promising members of the field need to draw in off the also-eligible list. Aristocratic Lady, part of an entry with Morlana, is a lightly raced but improving filly who closed out her 3-year-old season with a 3 3/4-length win over the Churchill Downs main track.

won her last two starts at 3 for trainer Mark Hennig. She has yet to start on turf but has the pedigree to handle grass, being by Giant's Causeway out of a Jade Hunter mare.