02/27/2002 12:00AM

Elusive favorite in Gaily Gaily


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The last time many of the 3-year-old fillies in Friday's Gaily Gaily Stakes met, the wagering public had a tough time deciding on a favorite.

August Storm ultimately was sent away a tepid choice at 3.40-1, odds that illustrate the contentiousness of the race, the Herecomesthebride Stakes on Feb. 3. The upset winner was Cellars Shiraz, an 18-1 shot, with August Storm second and She's Vested third.

Horseplayers again may have trouble making decisions Friday, when the top four finishers from the Herecomesthebride wheel back in the $65,000 Gaily Gaily. In all, a field of 11 is entered in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Despite her 1 1/4-length triumph last out, Cellars Shiraz probably will not be favored this time, either, according to her trainer, Bill Cesare. "I hope not," he said with a grin. "That's their choice if they want to look past her again. I just want her to run up to par and to her ability. Then we'll see what happens."

Cellars Shiraz, whose three turf races produced two wins and a second, used a relentless run from just off the pace to win the Herecomesthebride. "She runs her best from right off it," said Cesare.

August Storm, who led most of the way over a "good" surface in the Herecomesthebride, probably will be the one to run down again. Already a three-time winner on grass, August Storm tried male rivals in the Dave Feldman Stakes two starts back, fading to fifth as the even-money favorite.

"She definitely would have preferred a firmer footing" than what she got in the Herecomesthebride, said her trainer, Linda Rice.

Besides those two and She's Vested, who was third the entire trip at 27-1, the other returnee from the Herecomesthebride is Dame Sylvieguilhem, who rallied belatedly to finish a respectable fourth.

Foremost among the newcomers is Party Queen, an easy winner of her only two starts, both on turf. "She's the best filly I've got," trainer Vicki Oliver said. "Hopefully, she'll turn out to be a really good one."

The rest of the field consists of Wicklow Miracle, Swinging Gate, Farewell My Lovely, Redoubled Miss, Bells for Marlin, and Great Senaria.

Dame Sylvieguilhem certainly brings the most interesting name into the race. The Nureyev filly is named for Sylvie Guillem, a renowned former student of the legendary ballet dancer Nureyev.

The Gaily Gaily is the ninth of 10 races Friday, the 50th day of the meet.

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