06/20/2007 12:00AM

Ella Maria seeks rebound


SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - Ella Maria should be a prohibitive favorite as a full field of 10 fillies and mares competes over six furlongs in Friday's $6,000 Sun Life, the first stakes of the Marquis meeting.

Ella Maria has already run five times this spring and has won at both Stampede Park and Assiniboia Downs.

Her first two races were half-mile sprints versus high claimers at Stampede Park and Ella Maria finished second both times. She moved up to first via disqualification in the second start on March 31.

Ella Maria then was shipped to Assiniboia Downs where she was victorious against first-level allowance fillies and mares when running five furlongs in the slop.

Two subsequent outings there saw Ella Maria finish off the board, the most recent being a last-place finish at six furlongs after she stalked the pace in the La Verendrye on June 3.

Of the locals, Brite Steel may be the one to pressure Ella Maria early.

Brite Steel was the province's champion older filly or mare in 2006 when she won three allowance races and finished second in three stakes, including a nose loss in this event when it was named the Early's Farm and Garden Handicap.

However, Brite Steel needs to round into form after running fourth at a half-mile and then last, when claimed, against $6,000 foes on June 2.

The allowance prep for this race was run June 8 and the first five finishers return. On Manoeuvres jumped up from the $3,200 claiming ranks to defeat Navy Brat, Devdrudan, Stormy Answer, and Picture the Answer.

On Manoeuvres should get a stalking trip, while Picture the Answer will be flying late.