06/15/2005 11:00PM

Key factor in Phipps is adaptability

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The key to handicapping Saturday's $300,000 is figuring out which filly can succeed while running contrary to her preferred style.

Ashado, last year's 3-year-old filly champion, is best as a stalker, but she will likely find herself on the lead in the Grade 1 Phipps, run at 1 1/16 miles over Belmont Park's main track. Daydreaming and Society Selection are closers who will try to win by stalking Ashado. Bending Strings is a sprinter trying to prove she can route. Board Elligible is a closer who simply looks overmatched.

The Phipps starts the NTRA National Pick 4, with a guaranteed pool of $400,000, which also includes the Fleur de Lis and Stephen Foster handicaps from Churchill Downs, and the Californian from Hollywood Park. All four races will be shown live on ESPN beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Ashado, trained by Todd Pletcher, is 0 for 2 this year. She went 5 for 8 last year, including a victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. This year, Ashado finished fifth in the Apple Blossom and second in the Pimlico Distaff while seemingly in control of the pace over a sloppy track.

"The Apple Blossom was my fault, the Pimlico race was Mother Nature's fault," Pletcher said. "She's training better than she's trained her whole life. She could very well win this race, but it's a very tough race."

Ashado will break from the rail under John Velazquez and high weight of 120 pounds.

Society Selection, trained by Allen Jerkens, returned from a leg infection to win the Shuvee Handicap last month. Society Selection does her best work when the pace is swift in front of her, as was the case in that race.

"Naturally she's better at doing that," Jerkens said. "One day she went to the front and finished second. You can't have everything the way you want it."

Daydreaming finished second in the Shuvee. Trainer Shug McGaughey felt she raced closer to the pace than she prefers in that race and he is hoping for more pace on Saturday.

Bending Strings won two graded stakes sprinting last year and was beaten only a nose by Daydreaming in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap. In two starts beyond a mile as a 3-year-old, she was beaten 7 1/2 lengths by Ashado in the Fair Grounds Oaks and 10 3/4 lengths by Stellar Jayne in the Grade 1 Gazelle.

Board Elligible finished last in the White Carnation Stakes a week ago and has been beaten 44 1/2 lengths in her last three starts.