12/06/2007 12:00AM

Debutante 11 all making dirt route debuts

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - In Saturday's $100,000 Pat Whitworth Debutante Stakes, a handicapper will find horses with dirt sprint form, and horses with turf route form. But what's not to be found is any horse with experience around two turns on dirt, making the 1 1/16-mile Whitworth more than a trifle mysterious.

The Whitworth, for Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies made eligible through an early nomination process, drew a field of 11, four of whom are maidens with little apparent chance to win.

At the other end of the spectrum is the filly Carbella, who leads the group with three wins, but was no match for returning rival Cart's Italian Rose in the Nov. 3 Showtime Deb, and looks even less likely than Cart's Italian Rose to make the transition smoothly to two-turn racing.

In fact, trainer Gary Delong feels confident that Cart's Italian Rose can maintain her form in her first route start.

"I worked her twice a mile, and she came out of them really good - did all I was asking her to do," Delong said. "Back in her breeding, she's got some good blood to go a route. I think we look as good as anything in there."

Cart's Italian Rose has made a whopping eight starts at age 2, but for the first six, she was banging her head against a wall. Those first tries all were on Polytrack, and Cart's Italian Rose is not half the horse on a synthetic surface that she is on dirt.

"She got over [to Arlington], and she didn't look like she could go a half-mile, but we didn't give up on her," Delong said.

It may also be premature to give up on Dodee Gee, who looked good winning her career debut on Arlington Polytrack, but never really got involved in the Showtime Deb, finishing a well-beaten fifth.

"We were on a real time crunch there, and she needed a race," said trainer Darrin Miller. "She gained a lot of out of that, and hopefully she'll move forward. She feels and acts like a horse in her works that won't have any problem" with the longer distance.

Trainer Chris Block entered two in the Whitworth, but while Link to My Heart and Apple Martini both have run long, neither has ever raced on dirt. Link to My Heart easily won an open maiden race over the Hawthorne grass course on Oct. 14, and anything close to that performance level would probably land her in the winner's circle on Saturday.