01/18/2007 1:00AM

Foret just needs a break

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - Trainer Dale Bennett hasn't had the best of luck in his forays into stakes races here at Tampa Bay Downs this meeting, but on Saturday he hopes a clean trip will change all that when he sends out Foret to face nine rivals in the seven-furlong Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Foret, a Forest Camp filly whom Bennett purchased for Marc Goldish and Savoy Stable for $240,000 as a yearling at the 2005 Keeneland September sale, made her first local start in the six-furlong Sandpiper Stakes on Dec. 30. She hit the side of her starting gate stall at the break, causing her to break 11th in the field of 12.

Jockey Danny Centeno was forced to send Foret hard through the opening quarter-mile to reach striking position, swung her four wide into the stretch, and she was gaining ground steadily at the end to wind up third, beaten just a half-length by the winner, Special Cheers.

While the outcome of the Sandpiper was a disappointment, Bennett is confident he has a filly with a lot of talent on his hands and believes she will get better with each passing race.

"She got a little sick when we got down here, which cost us a little time, then we were wanting to run her in an allowance race to get her ready, and it didn't fill," Bennet said.

The Sandpiper, Bennett said, "was a solid race for her."

"She was the only one running at the finish despite the troubles at the gate, and I've believed all along that she'll be better going longer," he said. "She's a half-sister to Cosmic Kris, who won almost $200,000 on the turf, so we're also looking forward to getting her on the turf."

Foret made her career debut at Arlington, finishing second to Sutra, who went on to win the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park. After finishing second in another Arlington maiden race, she won at Hawthorne. The Sandpiper was her 3-year-old debut.

On Sunday, Foret worked a half-mile in 49 seconds, in what Bennett termed "a good move."

"With a little better racing luck we should be right there Saturday," he said.

Bianco, from the barn of Eddie Plesa Jr., tops the challengers, as she goes for her third win from five career outings. Bianco has finished second in two stakes at Calder and has been training well for her 3-year-old debut.

Silkily, second in four stakes this past fall, also merits consideration along with Runaway Queen, who was gaining ground steadily when fifth as the betting choice of the Sandpiper.

Two riders injured

Two riders were injured Sunday in separate incidents.

Elis Roque was riding Samuel the Prophet in the fifth race when the horse broke down passing the quarter pole. Roque was unseated and appeared to be struck by a trailing horse. He underwent surgery this week to repair a fractured vertebra and will be out approximately three months.

Dale Hemsley broke his collarbone in two places when his mount, Sweet Lil Punky, flipped in the starting gate before the ninth race. He will be sidelined six to eight weeks.