05/21/2002 11:00PM

Island Echo a terror on turf


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - All things being equal, Miss Seffens is probably the best horse in the Friday feature at Churchill Downs.

But one key variable may make things unequal: The $61,100, five-furlong race is scheduled for the turf course, a surface for which Island Echo has displayed an extraordinary fondness.

Twice last fall at Churchill, Island Echo won five-furlong turf allowances at generous odds. Trainer Bill Mott raced her sparingly over the winter, with a decent third in a February allowance on the Gulfstream Park main track, her only race before she returned to her forte earlier this month at Churchill.

In that return effort, the $100,000 Mamzelle Stakes on May 2, she led most of the way before finishing a game second to Repository.

While Island Echo clearly has the horse-for-course angle in her favor, Miss Seffens may simply be a superior horse. A multiple stakes winner who last year was widely considered one of the best filly-mare sprinters in the Midwest, Miss Seffens, trained by Steve Wren, has run just once this year and figures to be fresh enough to be a major contender at the five-furlong distance, regardless of surface.

Petite Diablo, a recent back-to-back winner for Ronnie Warren, and Four Plus Four, trained by Tom Proctor, may rate the best chances outside the two likely favorites in the six-horse field.

Conspicuous by their absence

While Take Charge Lady will be a heavy favorite Saturday in the $100,000 Dogwood Stakes, the Grade 3 race will not be contested by two of the more well-known names in the 3-year-old filly division, Habibti and Belterra, both of whom continue to train at Churchill.

Habibti finished third in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks.

Belterra skipped the Oaks after undergoing throat surgery 3 1/2 weeks before the race.

"We don't have anything in mind for her," said Ian Wilkes, assistant to Carl Nafzger, trainer of Belterra. "We just want to get her right first."

* Dream Run, winner of the Gulfstream Sprint Championship in February, will make his next start in the $150,000 Moseley Handicap on the June 1 Mass Cap undercard at Suffolk Downs.

* Mark Guidry, who will ride Island Echo, took off all mounts Wednesday because of the death of his father-in-law.

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