12/31/2009 1:00AM

Lady Alexander is both versatile and consistent


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Lady Alexander, beaten a neck when second in the Garland of Roses Handicap at Aqueduct last time out, makes her Tampa Bay Downs debut on Saturday when she tops a field of 14 older fillies and mares in the $65,000 Minaret Stakes. The six-furlong Minaret is the first in a series of stakes for older female runners here.

Daniel Centeno has been named aboard Lady Alexander by trainer Bruce Alexander. A multiple stakes winner, Lady Alexander goes for her fifth win from 11 career outings and will carry 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the race.

Lady Alexander won 4 races from 10 outings last year while competing at from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. She won a pair of races over the summer at Monmouth, including the Mongo Queen, then after a short layoff came back at Aqueduct to be third in the seven-furlong Poker Night. Lady Alexander tried two turns for the first time in the Honey Bee, a 1 1/16-mile race at the Meadowlands in November. Lady Alexander went right to the front from her outside post, and won by 1 1/4 lengths.

Most recently, on Dec. 5, Lady Alexander raced close up throughout the six-furlong Garland of Roses and came up a neck short of Awesome Ashley.

The top challengers to Lady Alexander are Perf, a most impressive winner here on opening day in a prep for the Minaret, and Rock Candy, winner of the Gasparilla and Suncoast stakes and third in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks here last season.

Perf rallied from next to last in the six-furlong allowance prep for the Minaret, winning by 3 1/2 lengths. Before that, she rallied from off the pace to post a six-length tally in the 1 1/16-mile Autumn Leaves at Mountaineer.

Rock Candy knocked out three straight wins last winter and spring here. She came off an eight-month hiatus in the Minaret prep and finished third.

The Christine Janks-trained pair of Cruise, a four-time career winner sprinting, and Nicks, an accomplished Illinois-bred, deserve attention. So does Gemswick Park, winner of the Old Hat at Gulfstream Park last winter.

The next race in the filly and mare series is the seven-furlong Manatee Stakes on Jan. 30 followed by the 1 1/16-mile Wayward Lass on Feb. 27.