08/14/2008 11:00PM

Filly matchup headlines festival


SHAKOPEE, Minn. – Horse of the meet honors could very well be decided Sunday in the Minnesota Distaff Sprint, one of seven $50,000 Thoroughbred stakes for Minnesota-breds on Minnesota Festival of Champions Day at Canterbury Park.

The Minnesota Distaff Sprint, a six-furlong contest for fillies and mares, will feature a showdown between A. J. Bakes and Bella Notte.

The 3-year old filly A. J. Bakes bested older rivals when she captured the Lady Slipper Stakes in her first start of the Canterbury meet, but then tailed off in two subsequent races. At the suggestion of jockey Scott Stevens, trainer Todd Hoffrogge removed the blinkers from A. J. Bakes and was rewarded with a front-running 9 1/2-length victory in the Minnesota Oaks last month. Stevens will ride A. J. Bakes in the Distaff Sprint.

Favoritism in the Distaff Sprint may very well rest with Bella Notte, who will be meeting A. J. Bakes for the first time. A 4-year-old filly, Bella Notte won her maiden in her first start of the meet and has since knocked off her allowance conditions with several impressive pace-pressing efforts. Derek Bell will ride Bella Notte, who is trained by Mac Robertson.

Robertson also sends Chick Fight in the Northern Lights Debutante for 2-year-old fillies on Sunday. Chick Fight, who is undefeated in two starts this year, prevailed in a maiden special weight test on July 4 weekend, then returned three weeks later to trounce a field that included males by better than eight lengths in an allowance prep for the Northern Lights Debutante. Derek Bell has the call on Chick Fight in the six-furlong test.

Handicappers face an interesting challenge in the Northern Lights Futurity for 2-year-olds when jockeys Derek Bell and Dean Butler switch mounts for the six-furlong contest. Butler rides A Steel Trap, who won his career debut by 10 lengths under Bell two weeks ago for trainer Tammy Domenosky. Robertson named Bell on Yappah Do, who finished third under Butler when chasing Chick Fight in an allowance race last month.

* Six runners contest the about one mile Minnesota Turf Championship in a race that features a rematch between Joni’s Justice and C C Tat, who finished second and third in the Blair’s Cove Stakes last month.

* Blair’s Cove winner Sir Tricky was entered in the Minnesota Sprint Championship, a six-furlong contest that also includes Vazandar and the improving 3-year-old The Real Story.

* Seasahm will be asked to transfer her sharp form to the main track when she takes on nine filly and mare rivals in the Minnesota Distaff Championship at 1 1/16 miles.

* Three Minnesota Derby winners face off when Cubfanbudman, Palm Reader, and Wally’s Choice meet in the Minnesota Classic Championship at 1 1/16 miles.