01/20/2005 1:00AM

Estacada back off flop as chalk in last


PHOENIX - Estacada is out to dismiss concerns over her flop as the favorite last out when she returns in Saturday's $40,000 Sun Devil. The mile race for 3-year-old fillies has lured a field of seven, and because of Estacada's Dec. 27 dud as the even-money shot in the Funallover - and the presence here of some talented shippers - favoritism is up for grabs. But how you approach the race from a wagering standpoint likely depends on your assessment of Estacada.

Trained by Molly Pearson, Estacada romped by more than five against maidens at Turf Paradise in her Nov. 5 debut, and then came right back and won the La Paz Stakes.

In the Dec. 10 Ms. Gibson County, she dueled for the lead and opened up in midstretch, but just failed to fend off the highly talented Lady Bertrando. Estacada lost nothing in defeat as she ran hard over a track made slow by recent rains.

Estacada came back in the Funallover, but after establishing position in midpack never made a move, eventually fading to finish sixth of seven runners. Was she still feeling the effects of her very tough Dec. 10 effort?

Estacada will go a route for the first time, but her sire, Cape Town, won the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby. Scott Stevens, the only rider she was ever had, keeps the call. Now the question is, which Estacada shows up.

Hold the Game invades from California. She won her maiden at Hollywood Park last summer and won a mile allowance race in the mud at Golden Gate on Nov. 12 before finishing fourth in a stakes there on Dec. 19.

Hold the Game has worked a couple of times over this track and, unlike Estacada, brings proven route form to this race.

She Sings ships in from Southern California where after a nice maiden win at Santa Anita at a mile in October she ran eighth in the Grade 3 Miesque on the turf. She's been freshened since that Nov. 26 race, and has a long string of solid drills.

She Sings's connections - trainer Marcelo Polanco and owner Everest Stables - have had success shipping here from California. They've mainly used rider Mick Ruis, and that's who they're using again here.