12/04/2003 1:00AM

'Forever' comes off the bench


MIAMI - When healthy, Stay Forever is widely considered the best filly and mare turf horse on the grounds. The question is whether the injury-plagued mare will be at the top of her game when she returns from a nine-month layoff in Saturday's $100,000 My Charmer Handicap at Calder Race Course.

As expected, the Grade 3 My Charmer drew a full and wide-open field of 12, plus five also-eligibles, to go 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Stay Forever has won 6 of 9 career starts, including three stakes. Now 6, her career was interrupted for 20 months, from November 2000 through July 2002, because of a tendon injury. This season, she has suffered repeated quarter cracks.

A stretch-running daughter of Stack, Stay Forever registered the most important victory of her career in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf in January, although she has yet to win a graded race.

Stay Forever will share high weight in the My Charmer with Something Ventured, who ships down from New York off a fourth-place finish in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Athenia Handicap. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Something Ventured has placed in four graded stakes this year and is a winner over the local course.

The hottest horse in the field is Love Sting, who has won her last three starts, including the Calder Oaks on Oct. 11. Love Sting could prove to be the controlling speed in the My Charmer if she opts to try for the early lead.

New Economy returns to Calder seeking her first victory since she upset the Grade 2 La Prevoyante here last December. She finished fifth, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths, three weeks before that in the 2002 My Charmer. Trained by Graham Motion, New Economy is coming off an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.

"She missed the summer because of a bruised foot but seems to be coming along well now," said Motion's assistant, David Rock. "She didn't like the soft turf at Woodbine for the E.P. Taylor."

The biggest question mark in the race is Ivanavinalot, who was supplemented to the My Charmer by trainer Kathleen O'Connell and will be making her turf debut. Regarded as the top 3-year-old filly in south Florida following her victory in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes in February, Ivanavinalot has lost her four subsequent starts.

"I need to run her to find out if she wants to be a racehorse any more," said O'Connell, who has been trying to get Ivanavinalot into a turf race for two months.