04/11/2002 12:00AM

Double your Irvings, double your Distaff fun


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - There was only one stakes race scheduled at Lone Star Park this weekend. Now there are two.

Saturday's $75,000 Irving Distaff has been split into two divisions to accommodate the 17 horses entered in the 7 1/2-furlong turf stakes. The split is nothing new. Two divisions were contested in 1997 and 1998.

"It's a case of an early grass stake for fillies," said Larry Craft, director of racing for Lone Star Park. "For some of these horses that were at Oaklawn, this will be a chance to get on the grass."

It serves as a prep for others. La Recherche and Impending Bear are two comebackers running in the ninth race, which appears stronger than the first division, race seven.

La Recherche, a multiple stakes winner of $261,000 owned by Marc and Jill Winston, was a consistent mid-level stakes horse in 2001. She won the Walmac Lone Star Oaks and the Pago Hop at Fair Grounds, excelling in short-distance turf routes.

That made the Irving Distaff an attractive option. "I have always felt she was a better miler than a mile and a sixteenth horse," trainer Tom Amoss said. "Seven and a half furlongs should work very well."

To win La Recherche must rebound from one of the few lackluster performances of her career - a sixth-place finish in the Jan. 13 Sixty Sails Handicap at Fair Grounds. Racing against older mares for the first time, she faltered in her 4-year-old bow.

"It's tough to make that transition from 3 to 4," said Amoss, who is 5 for 11 in stakes at Lone Star over the last three years. "I feel strongly about that. There were some good fillies down at the Fair Grounds, and they weren't going anywhere. So we thought that would be a good time to give her a break."

Ronald Ardoin, aboard for her two stakes victories last year, has the mount.

Impending Bear, a Grade 2-placed mare from the Mike Stidham stable, adds strength to the second division. She makes her first start since last June, when she was a distant third in the Dr. James Penny Handicap at Philadelphia Park. Corey Lanerie rides.

The first division is led by Mysia Jo and Company Storm. The former, third in the Fantasy last year, won the Red Camelia Handicap at Fair Grounds March 25. Company Storm ships to Lone Star Park from Florida after running second in the One Dreamer Stakes at Gulfstream Park March 16.

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