07/23/2003 11:00PM

Fast maiden winners clash


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Lucky Fern and La Grande Mamma, each a winner in her career debut, meet Saturday at Woodbine in the $137,375 Nandi Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies.

Lucky Fern came from just off the pace under Jim McAleney to win a five-furlong maiden special June 21. Her time of 59 seconds was good for a 66 Beyer Speed Figure.

Trainer John Ross said he wasn't surprised by her professional effort.

"I felt very good about her, because of the way she'd been training," Ross said. "She was in Florida over the winter, so that gave her a little more education. What I liked in particular was that she sat back a little off the pace, and then snuck through along the inside like an older horse would. It wasn't rocket ship time, but she looked okay doing it, and she dug in when Jimmy asked her."

Ross purchased Lucky Fern for $20,000 from a local yearling sale, on behalf of owners Larry Titchner and Gary Wellwood.

"When I saw her conformation at the sale, I just had to have her," Ross recalled. "She was nice and correct. I trained her mother, Freezbie, and she never got a chance to prove herself. She could have been a really nice filly, but she broke a little wing bone in her foot."

Ross said Lucky Fern worked three furlongs on Tuesday. "She went in 36 and change and galloped out well," he said. "She's all set to go."

La Grande Mamma was bet down to 8-5 when she debuted against $25,000 maidens, and embarrassed her five rivals with a 15 1 /2-length victory. Her 5 1/2-furlong clocking of 1:04.80 earned her a 71 Beyer, the highest in the Nandi field.

Trainer Steve Owens claimed La Grand Mamma that day, and sent her out for a quick five-furlong work over the main track July 12. Patrick Husbands takes the mount.

Also in the Nandi lineup are Sheer Enchantment, Bold Starlet, Always Hope, Boozin Blonde, Oriental Doll, Proper Manners, My Vintage Port, and Inspired Magic.

Boozin Blonde, trained by Mike Doyle, won her maiden second time out against Ontario-sired opposition June 29. She ran back just a week later, in the Shady Well Stakes, in which she had a three-wide stalking trip and finished second behind runaway winner Megan's Appeal.

Inspired Magic, the only other winner in the field, is going on Lasix following a weak performance in the Shady Well. Her trainer, Glenn Magnusson, has won the Nandi twice.