01/24/2008 12:00AM

For Kisses eyes four in row


In her quest to extend her winning streak to four races, Laurel Park horse-for-the-course For Kisses faces the ultimate road warrior, Cryptoquip, in Saturday's $80,000 Nellie Morse Stakes.

The one-mile Nellie Morse, named for the last filly to win the Preakness, in 1924, is also the opening leg of the season's first Magna 5.

Although both are 5-year-old mares with good records, the similarity between For Kisses and Cryptoquip ends there.

For Kisses, based at Pimlico with trainer Richard Small, is 7 for 11 at Laurel and 5 for 7 going a mile. A Maryland-bred, she has defeated open company in two of her last three starts, both in non-stakes.

Her last three Beyer Speed Figures of 85, 84, and 93 are close to the par of 89 for the last seven runnings of the Nellie Morse.

In contrast, Cryptoquip will be starting at her 12th consecutive different racetrack. Since coming to trainer Graham Motion's barn last spring, she has raced at Pimlico, Delaware, Thistledown, Beulah, Woodbine, and Aqueduct.

Her last four starts have been at either 1 1/8 or 1 1/4 miles, including a near-miss in the Ladies Handicap on Dec. 15 last time out. She will be racing as short as a mile for the first time since she captured a maiden race at Churchill Downs in May 2006.

The best last-race Beyer Figure in the field belongs to Wild Hoots, who romped by 14 lengths in a first-level allowance, earning a 95 Beyer almost a month ago at Philadelphia Park. That figure was nearly 40 points higher than her previous start and 24 points faster than she had ever run on dirt, meaning Wild Hoots is a "bounce" candidate this time.

One other mare who merits respect is Art Show. Although she has made 16 of her 23 lifetime starts on turf, Art Show has 2 wins and a second in three starts since she was switched to the main track in early November and is 2 for 3 at Laurel.