10/18/2006 11:00PM

Familiar fillies meet again


Five months after Missy's Queen edged Free Bonus in the Shelby County Stakes at Indiana Downs, the two Indiana-bred fillies will have their rematch Saturday night in the $40,000 Merrillville Stakes at Hoosier Park going six furlongs.

The front-running Free Bonus, the odds-on favorite in the Shelby County, was unable to fully shake loose from Missy's Queen, who was never more than a length behind at any call. Missy's Queen moved alongside Free Bonus at the top of the stretch and steadily wore down her rival to win by a half-length in a career-best performance.

Free Bonus was coming off a taxing allowance win prior to the Shelby County, which might have been a factor in her narrow defeat. Free Bonus may have the edge this time as she enters the Merrillville off an easier race, a second in the Richmond Stakes two weeks ago, which was her first start in two months. Meanwhile, Missy's Queen has lost three straight allowances during the Hoosier meet, the most recent occurring only 10 days ago.

The other contenders in the Merrillville are claiming-quality runners on the major circuits. Easy Tee has won 4 of her last 7 starts on the dirt, the most recent a $17,500 claimer at Arlington on Aug. 13. Lil E Rose has just 1 win in 13 starts this year, but appears to fit based on her form against $20,000 stock in Kentucky, while Black Topper might need an off track to run to her best.