09/06/2006 11:00PM

Jones matches his top sprinters in Endine


Trainer Larry Jones readily admits he would prefer not to run two of his best female sprinters against each other. Given the circumstances, however, Jones said he felt compelled to give both the 5-year-old Miss Elsie and the 3-year-old Hello Liberty a crack at the $200,000 purse in Saturday's Grade 3 Endine Handicap at Delaware Park.

The Endine, which goes as race 11, is part of a 14-race program for the 14th annual Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association Owners Day. The card, which begins at noon Eastern, includes three other stakes, including the Grade 3, $500,000 Kent on turf.

Jones said he was reluctant to put Hello Liberty against Miss Elsie for her first race against older filly and mares, but he couldn't choose just one horse for the Endine, because very little separates them. Both are graded-stakes-placed runners.

"I would like to have only one horse in the race," Jones said, "but to be fair to everybody, this looked like the best spot for both horses, so here we are.

"On a five-race championship series, if we run them against each other five times, I would give a slight edge to Miss Elsie beating Hello Liberty more than the other way around," Jones said. "But I do think either horse on their given day can run very big and get the job done."

Fortunately for bettors, they don't have to split hairs. Miss Elsie and Hello Liberty are coupled in the betting.

Miss Elsie comes off a third in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss at Saratoga a month ago.

Hello Liberty, winner of the Grade 2 Nassau BC in May and second in the Grade 1 Acorn in June, returns to her home base after finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga. It was the first time in nine career starts that Hello Liberty hadn't finished at least third.

Jones said he is willing to toss the Test.

"She has shown a tendency a couple of times of being a little particular on what she likes to run on," Jones said. "She definitely did not seem to get real comfortable on the track at Saratoga. She did not particularly care for Oaklawn Park as well. Hopefully she will rebound and show that the Test was just a fluke race."

The stiffest challenge to Jones's pair could come from Hot Storm, a Kentucky-based filly from Dallas Stewart's barn. She has won four stakes at four different tracks this year, but will be racing in a graded race for only the second time. She was third behind Malibu Mint and Prospective Saint in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney at Calder in July.

The field also includes Ebony Breeze, a 6-year-old mare who won this race in 2004 and finished third last year. Two starts ago, Ebony Breeze won the Grade 3 Chicago BC Handicap at Arlington Park.

Owners Day: Cherokee's Boy favored

The millionaire 6-year-old Cherokee's Boy heads a field of six older horses for the $100,000 DTHA Owners Day Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

Although he's an 18-time winner in his career and owns the nine-furlong track record at Charles Town, Cherokee's Boy is just 1-for-9 lifetime at Delaware Park.

The two horses with the best shot at upsetting the favorite are Smokescreen, coming off back-to-back triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures at Monmouth Park, and Smart Growth, who beat Cherokee's Boy by a half-length in the Brandywine on June 10.

Rosenberger: Frambroise returns

Frambroise, who finished seventh in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth but was sharp in two previous turf tries over the local course, should be dangerous in the $100,000 George Rosenberger Memorial for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 on the grass.

Trainer Graham Motion said he feels Framboise was compromised by a slow pace in the Matchmaker, and he expects her to run much better over a course where she has a win and a close second earlier this summer.

Other contenders in the main body of 12 are Maryland shipper Cozy Gain, who ran well in two longer races over the course earlier in the meet; La Dolce Vita, who won back-to-back allowance races at Gulfstream last winter; and Present Danger, who is often close but hasn't won since taking a second-level allowance over a soft course in July 2005.

Both the Owners Day and the Rosenberger are restricted to horses who have made at least one start at Delaware this season.