09/25/2009 12:00AM

Fillies step into spotlight at Calder

Jim Lisa
Sweetlalabye wins the Desert Vixen two starts back before finishing second by a neck in the Susan's Girl. She will try two turns for the first time Saturday.

MIAMI - The Foolish Pleasure Stakes has proven to be a pretty reliable stepping-stone in recent years to the In Reality division of the Florida Stallion series. But with 2-year-old division leaders Jackson Bend and Mr. Green sitting this one out, it will be the Foolish Pleasure's filly counterpart, the Brave Raj, that will take center stage at Calder on Saturday. The Brave Raj is the final major prep for the My Dear Girl Stakes, which will be run along with the In Reality on the Oct. 17 Festival of the Sun program.

The one-mile and 70-yard Foolish Pleasure and Brave Raj are two of four stakes worth $75,000 apiece to be offered on Saturday's 13-race Festival Preview card. They will be joined by the Needles and Judy's Red Shoes, both of which are scheduled to be run on the turf.

The last horse to pull off the Brave Raj-My Dear Girl double was Ivanavinalot in 2002. This year's edition of the Brave Raj brings together a field that includes Sweetlalabye and Rosebud's Ridge, the winners of the opening two legs of the filly division of the 2009 Stallion Stakes, along with Gator Brew, who captured the one-mile Lindsay Frolic Stakes winning her maiden here three weeks earlier.

In all, eight of the 12 2-year-old fillies entered in the Brave Raj are eligible to come back in the 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl.

Sweetlalabye rallied to a three-quarter-length decision over the slow-starting Joanie's Catch in the six-furlong Desert Vixen before falling a neck short of catching Rosebud's Ridge in the seven-furlong Susan's Girl three weeks later. Both fillies will be stretch out around two turns for the first time in the Brave Raj.

Gator Brew rallied from just off a slow pace to outfinish The Isabella Angel by a nose in the one-mile Lindsay Frolic, with Roma's Gal another head farther back in third. Roma's Gal will also return Saturday and she is eligible for the My Dear Girl, as is Joanie's Catch, whose gate issues could be behind her following a sharp half-mile drill from the gate in 49.60 seconds earlier this week.

The Isabella Angel also looms a key player in the Brave Raj, although as a Kentucky-bred, she cannot return in the My Dear Girl.

The Foolish Pleasure proved to be a perfect barometer for handicapping the In Reality for three consecutive years, with Blazing Rate (2005), Green Vegas (2006) and Wise Answer (2007) all wheeling right back to capture the Stallion Stakes finale. That streak ended a year ago when Foolish Pleasure winner Stately Character was not Stallion series-eligible.

With Jackson Bend and Mr. Green on the sidelines, Bim Bam and Thank U Philippe may prove the most likely candidates to rekindle the Foolish Pleasure-In Reality tradition.

Bim Bam finished third behind Jackson Bend and Mr. Green in the first two legs of the open division of the Stallion Stakes, the six-furlong Dr. Fager and seven-furlong Affirmed. A son of Deputy Wild Cat, Bim Bam flashed improved speed despite getting roughed early on in the Affirmed.

Thank U Philippe, a stablemate of Mr. Green, continues to move forward with every start from a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint. Mr. Philippe outfinished Fly by Phil to finally win his maiden going seven furlongs on Aug. 22. Fly by Phil returned to flatter that effort when graduating by nearly a dozen lengths here last weekend.

Wave Me By and Allez Reef have the advantage of already winning around two turns. Wave Me By rallied off a fast pace to dominate the one-mile Seacliff Stakes by nearly five lengths for his second consecutive victory, while Allez Reef won his maiden in gate-to-wire fashion going a mile and 70 yards earlier this month.

Needles draws familiar foes

Familiar rivals Grand Cash, Cinnamon Road, and Livingston Street will renew acquaintances in the 1 1/16-mile Needles for 3-year-olds.

Grand Cash has not started since capturing the American Dreamer overnight stakes on July 11. He also won the Lord Juban eight weeks earlier at the direct expense of pacesetter Cinnamon Road.

Livingston Street rallied to finish fourth following a slow start in the American Dreamer and is a versatile sort, capable of handling both turf and dirt. So, too, is Cinnamon Road, who brings a two-race winning streak, both those victories coming over sloppy tracks, into the Needles.

The 1 1/16-mile Judy's Red Shoes drew 12 horses, including two also-eligibles, and would be a stronger race if it moves to the main track, with only four members of the lineup having posted a win on grass.

Entertaining, with four turf tallies on her resume, would obviously be formidable if the race goes as scheduled, while the graded -stakes-placed Royal Card looks best on the dirt.