05/13/2004 11:00PM

Handpainted in razor-sharp form

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Winter-raced Handpainted should have a significant fitness edge on her five opponents in Sunday's $161,250 Hendrie Handicap, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares at Woodbine.

Handpainted, a double stakes winner in 2002 for owners John and Glenn Sikura, ran just twice last year at 3. Her best effort of that abbreviated campaign was a runner-up placing in the Grade 1 Selene Stakes.

Handpainted ran two superb races following an extended layoff during the winter in Louisiana, the first of which was a victory in the Pan Zareta Handicap at Fair Grounds.

"She had been off eight months," trainer Josie Carroll said. "She was very sharp, but she relaxed quite nicely close to the pace. We had planned on giving her more of a stalking trip, but she wanted to kick on, and the rider wisely let her go on and open up. She won pretty easily."

Carroll considered running Handpainted back March 13, in the Grade 3 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup, but she ended up bypassing that stakes in favor of the $75,000 Goddess Stakes at Delta Downs on March 26.

"She just didn't bounce back out of the first race as quickly as I would have liked," Carroll recalled. "The race at Delta had a respectable purse and it was a mile, which was a nice way to start stretching out. The concern was that it's a deep track, and they say it's difficult to win there without having a race over the track.

"She relaxed a little more there with the one race under her belt, and won pretty decisively. She went in [1:38.25], which was pretty quick over that track. She got a lot out of it."

Carroll subsequently took Handpainted to Keeneland, and considered running her there or in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne, but ultimately decided to wait for the Hendrie to give the filly some extra time.

"She wasn't bang-on where we wanted her to be, so the Sikuras said 'Wait until you're completely comfortable with her,' " Carroll said. "She's in really good order right now. She's jumping out of her skin."

Two other contenders in the Grade 3 Hendrie are Bob Tiller-trained duo of Brass in Pocket and Winter Garden.

Brass in Pocket is making her seasonal debut, while Winter Garden finished second to Florida invader Holy Bubbette when she came off the sidelines April 18 in the Whimsical Stakes.

"They're both going into the race in great shape," Tiller said.