03/29/2003 1:00AM

Island Fashion wins maiden in WinStar Oaks

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SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Saturday's $250,000-added was the first half of "WinStar Weekend", which concludes with Sunday's $500,000 WinStar Derby. It turned out to be one of the richest maiden wins ever as Everest Stables' homebred Island Fashion scored a mild upset in just her third career out.

Island Fashion settled back early under Ignacio Puglisi before mounting her rally four wide on the far turn and setting her sights on pacesetter Ela Ela. Nearing the sixteenth pole Ela Ela ducked in from a right-handed whip, while Island Fashion was lugging in herself. Island Fashion took over soon thereafter and drew clear to win by two lengths, getting the mile in 1:36.29. After the race, trainer Nick Canani did not seem unduly surprised by his filly's win. "I always thought she was a good one, but she is a late-developing type so I didn't rush her to the races. She is still a bit green and still maturing. I don't think we've seen nearly all she can do."

Canani has his sights set high. "I am going to keep an eye on the Kentucky Oaks. If it comes up a bit light she could go" he said. "I want to see that she comes out of the race well and continues to progress, but I believe she has the ability." Island Fashion, a gray filly by Petionville, was a bit green on Saturday and won the WinStar Sunland Oaks on sheer ability. She began her career in the Turf Paradise Oaks, finishing fourth.

"I tried to get her in a maiden race going long at Santa Anita but they didn't fill. That was what prompted me to run her in the Arizona Oaks," Canani said.

Her stablemate, Harbor Blues, won that race by 11 1/2 lengths, while Island Fashion was beaten just over a length for second. Entered back in a 6 1/2 maiden race at Santa Anita March 5 she was beaten just a nose, setting her up perfectly for the WinStar. The win was worth $153,870 and Island fashion returned $12. Ela Ela held on for the place, two lengths behind Island Fashion. Locally-based Isit Still Legal was five lengths farther back in third. The even-money favorite, Nelson Bunker Hunt's Souris, was a dull fifth, beaten almost 14 lengths after making a mild bid along the rail on the far turn.

"She felt good and started to pick them up, but then just came up flat" jockey Corey Lanerie said.