03/25/2010 11:00PM

Ellafitz, Harissa meeting again


It's a rematch in New Mexico for Ellafitz and Harissa, a pair of Southern California females who figure to command a good deal of attention on Sunday when they meet in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks.

The Sunland Park Oaks, at 1 1/16 miles, is part of a six-stakes program led by the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby. All told, the races will be worth more than $1.4 million, making the program the richest of the meet at Sunland.

Ellafitz and Harissa have clashed a couple of times back home, their latest run-in coming in an $80,000 optional claiming race March 4 at Santa Anita. Ellafitz shot to the lead in the 1 1/16-mile race and rolled to a 1 1/4-length win, while Harissa rallied for second in an order of finish her connections would like to reverse Sunday.

"My filly stumbled badly out of the gate last time and was shuffled back, and we weren't really able to get into the race," said David Hofmans, who trains Harissa for Gem Inc.

"We hope we can catch [Ellafitz] this time. It's a contentious race. There's some horses in there who have run well over the local track."

The Sunland Park Oaks will be the first start on dirt for Harissa, but Hofmans noted she has trained on dirt at both Pomona, when a 2-year-old at auction, and on the training track at Santa Anita. She will break from post 2, under Tyler Baze, and will be Hofmans' first starter at Sunland since he ran a horse in the 1975 Riley Allison Futurity.

Hofmans said the purse of the Sunland Park Oaks prompted him to send Harissa to New Mexico. Ditto for Ellafitz.

"It's a good place to pick up some money if you run well," said Bob Baffert, who trains Ellafitz for D & E Racing.

Ellafitz can give Baffert his third win in the Sunland Oaks behind future Grade 1 winners Gabby's Golden Gal in 2009 and Tough Tiz's Sis in 2007. Ellafitz finished third in the Grade 2 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita in January.

"She's a nice filly," said Baffert.

Ellafitz will break from post 6 in the six-horse field and will be ridden by Martin Garcia.

The Sunland Park Oaks also includes Queen Greeley, who won the race's local prep, the $50,000 Island Fashion on Feb. 28. The race was her second straight stakes win at the meet, and came in her first start at two turns. For the effort, Queen Greeley earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 86, which also ranks as the best last-race number in the field Sunday. Isaias Enriquez has the mount for trainer Todd Fincher.

Henson: Freedom Star sharp

Freedom Star will start as the 121-pound highweight in the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap for fillies and mares at a mile. She comes into the race off a sharp, wire-to-wire win in the Grade 3 Azeri at Oaklawn Park on March 6. That race was her first start on dirt, and she seemed to move up on the surface, according to her trainer, Baffert.

Garcia has the mount Freedom Star, who figures to be prominent from post 5.

"She comes out of there running," said Baffert.

Also on the card are a trio of stakes restricted to horses bred in New Mexico. There are a pair for 3-year-olds, the $100,000 Breeders' Derby and the $100,000 Breeders' Oaks. Both races will be run over 1o1/16 miles, and each drew a field of 12.

Some of the stakes winners set to go in the Breeders' Derby are Huntin the Trash and Rig's Runner, while King's Water Lily is among the stakes winners on deck for the Breeders' Oaks.

The $125,000 La Conjea is for fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs, and the top contenders include Negotiablafections. The race also drew a field of 12.