07/13/2005 11:00PM

Ex-claimers fit nicely in turf stakes

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Canterbury Park is not the only track on Saturday showcasing former claiming horses. So, too, is Ellis Park. By coincidence, May Gator and Rue des Reves, both plucked from claiming races earlier in their careers, are among the favorites in Saturday's $100,000 HBPA Handicap.

The conditions of the HBPA suit both mares. They specialize in grass, and each has won at the race's mile distance.

, due to more extensive stakes experience, is the horse to beat. Since being claimed for $30,000 in July 2002 by Richard, Bert, and Elaine Klein, she has blossomed into a black-type mare for trainer Steve Flint, winning two stakes and an overnight handicap.

Two years ago, she won the off-the-turf Waya Stakes at Saratoga, but for the most part, May Gator's biggest victories have come at Ellis Park. She has three wins and two seconds overall at Ellis, which includes a win in the Dade Turf Classic in 2004.

After making more than $200,000 last year, May Gator has not been in as good of form in 2005, failing to do better than third in four starts. A couple of times at Churchill Downs she finished behind rivals she faces in the HBPA.

May Gator, a 6-year-old daughter of Green Alligator, is expected to bounce back with an improved performance for Flint, who is 12 for 32 with turf starters at Ellis since 2002 (38 percent winners and a $3.63 ROI). Jesus Castanon rides.

, a $6,500 claim by owner Craig Amundson in May 2004, is not as battle-tested in stakes company as May Gator.

Perfect in seven starts this year, she comes off a nose victory in the Lady Canterbury Stakes on June 19, a race in which she defeated some key HBPA rivals. Although that race was a legitimate test, some of her earlier wins this year came against easier starter-allowance runners.

Louisiana Downs-based trainer Dwight Viator has named Willie Martinez to ride.

Other U.S. stakes winners in the field of 12 include Rich Find, Kaylan's Rose, , Journey Fever, and Noisette. If the race is moved to the main track due to inclement weather, Tempus Fugit would benefit. She has won three stakes races at a mile this year, with two of her wins resulting in large margins of victory and triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. She is 6 for 15 on dirt, but only 1 for 10 on turf.

Her last turf race came in a three- other-than allowance at Keeneland last fall, a race in which she finished fourth.