07/25/2002 12:00AM

Grade 3 turf stakes lacks a standout


Saturday's $150,000 Martha Washington Breeders' Cup Stakes, a Grade 3 at Laurel Park, didn't draw a particularly strong field.

There are no graded winners among the 10 3-year-old fillies entered in the 1 1/16-mile grass race and only a smattering of fillies who have won minor stakes.

The horse to beat could be Bells for Marlin, a comfortable winner of the $50,000 Twin Light Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 6.

Trained by Elliott Walden, Bells for Marlin drew clear in the final sixteenth for a 1 1/2-length win in the 1 1/8-mile turf race over firm going. In her start before that, Bells for Marlin, who began her career in Europe, finished a narrowly beaten second in an allowance race run over a yielding course at Churchill Downs.

Horatio Karamanos, the runaway leader in the jockey standings at the recently concluded Colonial Downs meet, rides Bells for Marlin, who drew post 9.

Infinite Spirit, a stakes winner in Dubai, will attract attention because of her connections. The filly is owned by Godolphin Racing and is trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the same team which has won some big races this summer, including last weekend's Coaching Club American Oaks and the Suburban Handicap earlier in the month.

Earlier this year, Infinite Spirit won a Dubai stakes on the dirt by five lengths and defeated her stablemate Tempera, who was last year's 2-year-old champion filly in this country. Infinite Spirit ran dismally as the favorite in her American debut in the Grade 2 Nassau County on the dirt. She was moved to the turf for her next start and finished fourth in a third-level allowance at Belmont Park on July 5 at a big price. She was beaten only 1 3/4 lengths.

Larry Reynolds rides Infinite Spirit, who drew post 4.

Ntombi will try to atone for her loss as the favorite in the Grade 3 Sands Point in June at Belmont. Ntombi won three consecutive turf races, including the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico in May, before finishing eighth in the Sands Point, where she encountered a yielding course for the first time.

Mario Pino, second in the standings at Colonial, rides Ntombi.

Lojo is 2 for 2 on the grass after winning a maiden race and a first-level allowance at Monmouth. Normally, with such little experience, it would be a big jump to run in a graded stakes, but it might not be much of a disadvantage in this weak field.

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