06/15/2006 12:00AM

Grade 3 lures Annika Lass to Chicago


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Annika Lass, by the $5,000 Florida-based stallion Mister Jolie, fetched a bid of $2,000 at a yearling sale of 2002, and was pin-hooked a year later at a 2-year-old auction for a whopping $12,000. But sometimes the good ones slip through the cracks.

When Ro Parra's Millennium Farms purchased Annika Lass privately last year, she was a multiple stakes winner of more than $200,000, and after three close losses in a solid 2006 campaign, she's in Chicago this weekend to add a graded stakes to her resume.

"It's the Grade 3 that she's there for," said trainer Steve Asmussen, who shipped Annika Lass to Arlington from her Churchill Downs base for Saturday's Grade 3, $175,000 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap.

To win the Chicago BC, Annika Lass must beat Ebony Breeze, a horse who almost was a broodmare this season, but has come back for her 6-year-old season about as good as ever.

"She's still running pretty good races," said Bill Mott, who trains Ebony Breeze.

Annika Lass should be favored and Ebony Breeze a solid second choice in a field that drew eight other entrants, including a coupled entry, Modjadji and For Gillian, from the barn of trainer Christine Janks. Janks said she might scratch one or both of her horses.

Beyond the top pair come horses such as the Arlington-based Dimple Pinch who would need something like a career-best effort to win this seven-furlong stakes.

"I'm taking a shot because there's no place else to run right now," said trainer Hugh Robertson, who sent Dimple Pinch out to a third-level allowance win here late last month.

Annika Lass is winless since Asmussen took over her training this season, but has run well in all three races - a third to the good sprinter Smokey Glacken in the Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup at Aqueduct, a third in the Grade 2 Bed o' Roses, and a second in the $75,000 Sweet N Sassy on May 20 at Delaware Park. Annika Lass has started only twice at seven furlongs, but Asmussen said he believes she's better suited to that distance than six furlongs, her usual trip.

Eleven-time winner Ebony Breeze has raced longer than most mares of her quality, and could easily be in foal on a farm right now.

"I believe there had been some plan to retire her, but that changed," said Mott.

Instead, Ebony Breeze has come back with 2 wins and 2 thirds in another productive campaign. She finished third, beaten a neck, in the Winning Colors on May 27 at Churchill.