10/02/2003 11:00PM

Courtship starts serious business


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Sunday's $60,000-added Courtship Stakes at Bay Meadows will serve as an important guidepost for the trainers of the six 2-year-old fillies entered in the six-furlong race.

The lightly raced fillies who have run in Washington and northern and Southern California will begin the sorting-out process that will determine their future direction.

Bianconi Baby, a 10-length winner in her Sept. 14 debut at Emerald Downs, is one of the contenders, but, obviously, has questions to answer for trainer Terry Gillihan.

Trainer Dave Bennett, said Gillihan, "had her up there, and I ran second to her," he said of the six-furlong Sept. 14 race won in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:09.60.

Bianconi Baby has been in Gillihan's care for 10 days, with Bennett going to Arizona with most of his horses. She has impressed Gillihan thus far.

"She's a big good-looking filly," he said. "From what I've seen, I think she'll listen to the rider. She doesn't seem like a run-off type that needs the lead. She seems fairly smart and shows some grit."

She will have to in a field that includes stakes-winning Go Ask Daisy; Little Foxy Baby, who has won her first two starts in wire-to-wire style; and Upitty Kitty, who ran second to Halfbridled after taking the lead in the lane in her debut.

Trainer William E. Morey, who has another stakes-placed 2-year-old filly, Brite Roxie, in his barn, has been "pleasantly surprised" by Little Foxy Baby, who has gone head-and-head for the opening half-mile in both her starts and pulled away late.

In her last start, she dueled with Hot Weekend - who returned to set the pace against colts in last week's San Mateo Stakes - put her away and won by four.

"It was a pretty impressive deal at the quarter pole when she pulled away," Morey said. "I was impressed because down the backstretch, I'd have bet against both of them."

Trainer Brian Koriner, who is anxious to stretch Go Ask Daisy around two turns in next month's Cal Cup, believes the race sets up well for her.

"Education helps a lot with young horses like this," he said. "It looks like there's enough speed for her to sit back and get a real good education here."

Go Ask Daisy won the Aug. 16 Mid Peninsula Stakes at the Bay Meadows Fair. She rated, was shuffled back a bit, then made a strong rally along the rail to win.

"She ran a great race," Koriner said, "and was impressive no matter what the time or numbers may be."