08/03/2001 11:00PM

Desert Vixen draws small but talented field


MIAMI - There are nearly 500 fillies eligible for this year's Florida Stallion Series, but racing secretary Bob Umphrey is having trouble finding more than six to run in the opening leg, Saturday's $75,000 Desert Vixen Stakes.

What the Desert Vixen lacks in quantity, however, it will make up for in quality. Blissful Kiss and Pharmstar are expected to head a field that may also include Ms Brookski, Wellesley, and "two or three maidens," according to Umphrey.

Blissful Kiss won her maiden with an impressive 6 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 J J'sdream Stakes on June 30. A homebred daughter of Kissin Kris, Blissful Kiss finished a troubled third in her only previous start. She is owned by John Franks and trained by Bill White.

Pharmstar is a half-sister to Valid Forbes, who won two legs of the 2000 Stallion Series, including the six-furlong Desert Vixen, upsetting her more fancied stablemate Silk Concorde. Pharmstar, a daughter of freshman sire Adhocracy, won her career debut by five 5 1/2 lengths in the finale on the Summit of Speed card July 14. Like Valid Forbes, Pharmstar is trained by Ralph Ziadie for the Centaur Farms Inc.

The Desert Vixen lost a key player over the weekend when undefeated Passionate Bird suffered an injury training for the race. A daughter of Birdonthewire, she won her first two starts impressively.

"[Passionate Bird] worked an easy-as-you-please half in 49 and change," said trainer Ron Spatz, "but after she cooled out we noticed an inflammation in her back ankle. So we decided to send her back to the farm and give her a few months to recuperate. It is very disappointing. She was coming up to the race real well."

Umphrey will not have the same problems filling the $75,000 Dr. Fager Stakes for colts and geldings. A full gateload is expected for Saturday's six-furlong race. The field will be led by Barnacle Steve, a stakes-placed colt who was an impressive allowance winner in his only start of the meet. He is owned by James Lewis Jr. and trained by Manny Tortora, the same team that combined to sweep the 1994 open division with Mecke and Sea Emperor.

The only invader likely to ship in for either leg of the Stallion series is Rocket Wager, a son of Valid Wager, who graduated at first asking under a $60,000 claiming tag at Saratoga last Monday. He is trained by John Parisella for the Touchdown Stable.