10/27/2004 11:00PM

Delaware: Virginia-bred 2-year-olds


A pair of $50,000 sprints restricted to 2-year-old Virginia-bred or Virginia-sired horses will close out the 2004 stakes schedule at Delaware Park.

The Hildene for fillies and the T. Tyson Gilpin for colts and geldings, both contested at six furlongs, are races 5 and 6 on an abbreviated card that begins at 10:45 a.m.

Partners Due, second after blowing a huge lead in the Maryland Million Lassie last time out, and Joyous Song, the field's lone two-time winner and already stakes placed in two events, are the prime contenders in the Hildene.

Partners Due, a front-runner who won her maiden by 17 lengths at Colonial Downs in July, led the Maryland Million Lassie by six lengths at the eighth pole, only to struggle through a 14-second final furlong and lose by three-quarters of a length as the even-money favorite. Still, her 72 Beyer Speed Figure is the best last-out number in a field of eight.

Joyous Song, third in a three-furlong stakes at Gulfstream Park in April and the Colleen at Monmouth Park this summer, comes into the Hildene off a win against first-level allowance runners at Delaware in which she earned a 65 Beyer.

St. John Dress, who beat maiden claimers at Belmont with a 69 Beyer, is the track's morning-line favorite at 2-1. Her trainer, Bill Mott, and jockey, Heberto Castillo Jr., are 2 for 2 at Delaware this season.

The Gilpin appears to boil down to Late Night Lover and the maiden Smokin Forest. Late Night Lover most recently finished third in the Maryland Million Nursery with a 64 Beyer and looks like the lone speed.

Smokin Forest ran fourth in his career debut at Belmont, earning a 67 Beyer. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, is 7 for 13 with shippers to Delaware this year.