08/26/2008 11:00PM

Good fillies avoid heavy hitters


DEL MAR, Calif. - Ginger Punch and Zenyatta, along with Hystericalady, are the best older females in the country. The connections of Model, Moon Catcher, and Silver Swallow have seen enough of them, for now.

Thursday at Del Mar, those three fillies get a chance to avoid the heavy hitters by racing in the $80,000 Adoration Handicap at one mile on the main track. By facing one another, though, they have turned this restricted stakes race into a compelling mid-week feature.

Model could prove the slight favorite based on her second-place finish to Zenyatta earlier this month in the Clement Hirsch Handicap. Model won a second-level allowance here earlier in the meet, giving her two excellent efforts over the track.

"I think she's improving," Neil Drysdale, the trainer of Model, said Tuesday morning at Del Mar while watching Model jog with a pony. "I thought she ran very well in the Clement Hirsch, but she was in light."

Indeed, Model carried just 112 pounds that day, 12 fewer than Zenyatta. But that should not detract too much from her effort. She was beaten by just one length, while finishing 5 1/4 lengths clear of graded stakes winner Tough Tiz's Sis.

Moon Catcher recently arrived from New York, where she futilely chased Ginger Punch in two Grade 1 races, the Go for Wand at Saratoga and the Ogden Phipps at Belmont. This will be her first start on a synthetic surface.

"She's trained well. She seems to handle the track," said Nicholas Bachalard, the Del Mar-based assistant to Moon Catcher's trainer, Christophe Clement. "Chris wanted to try something different with her."

Moon Catcher is owned by Marsha Naify, the head of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

"We have a string out here and she's from out here," Bachalard said.

Silver Swallow was sixth in the Hirsch, but before that was third to Zenyatta in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. Bruce Headley, who trains Silver Swallow, said she paid the price for trying to move with Zenyatta midway through the Hirsch.

Lavender Sky is making her first start on a synthetic surface after competing on turf in her first 13 starts. She was fourth to Precious Kitten in the Gamely at Hollywood Park in her last start.

Super Freaky has done the bulk of her racing on turf, too. She most recently was fifth in the CashCall Mile at Hollywood.