04/08/2009 11:00PM

Dahlia invader has a familiar look


Laurel Park has run the Dahlia Stakes only three times since it was brought back onto the stakes schedule in 2006, but that brief history provides enough of a lesson to indicate Sefroua should be taken seriously in Saturday's running of the one-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Sefroua, 0 for 2 since coming over from France and idle since October, nevertheless looks like a serious contender based on how well her trainer, Graham Motion, has done with two previous Dahlia starters.

Motion won the 2006 Dahlia with Sweet Talker and finished second with Grigorieva a year later.

Both Sweet Talker and Sefroua came to Laurel after having not raced since the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland the previous October. Sweet Talker won the 2005 QE II, while Sefroua was seventh in the Grade 1 race last year.

Overall, Motion is 12 for 50 (24 percent) with turf horses returning from a layoff of more than 180 days, including 4 for his last 9 in non-graded stakes, according to DRF's Formulator.

A minor stakes winner in France, Sefroua prepped for her 4-year-old debut by working a bullet four furlongs last Friday.

A pair of 5-year-old mares making the second start of their form cycle following off-the-board finishes in Grade 3 stakes look like Sefroua's chief challengers.

First Ascent was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths at 116-1 in the Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs. She completed the last three furlongs of that 1o1/8-mile race in a swift 35.22 seconds.

Social Queen broke slowly and never fired in the Honey Fox at Gulfstream, her first start since October. Notably, she won the Grade 3 Eatontown at Monmouth Park in her second start off the bench in 2008.

Marias Golden Rose merits respect, despite her 0 for 8 record over Laurel's turf course. She's trained by Stephanie Beattie and owned by Robert Cole Jr., a potent combination that has won 43 percent of nearly 500 races since 2007, including a 20-for-45 record (44 percent) at Laurel.