09/04/2002 11:00PM

Lady Shari jets in for Oaks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - After a painful two weeks of heavy traffic and demolition derbies, horseplayers can breathe a sigh of relief that the Pacific National Exhibition is over and look forward to the best part of the Hastings Park racing season. Serious money will be up for grabs in the next two months and it all starts this Saturday with the $175,000 Breeders' Cup B.C. Oaks.

If Lady Shari, who is based at Woodbine and has earned close to $450,000, can handle another cross-continental flight she will be tough to beat Saturday.

She flew from Ontario to Northlands Park in Alberta and beat up on colts and geldings in the 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby on Aug. 24. She then picked up considerable air miles when she shipped back to Ontario following the race. She was flown to Vancouver from Ontario on Wednesday evening, and arrived at Hastings Park early Thursday morning.

"She's a very calm filly," said her trainer, David Cotey. "She's tough as nails on the track but as soon as she walks off she settles right down. She's never had any problems shipping and nothing seems to bother her. She was great when we traveled to Delaware and New York last year."

Lady Shari won the Grade 1 Mazarine Breeders' Cup at Woodbine last year. Probably more impressive was her second-place finish in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct last November.

Before the Canadian Derby her only win this year was a neck decision in a $62,500 optional race in the slop at Woodbine on June 15. She finished fourth in the Wilderness Stakes on July 13, but according to Cotey, would have easily won the race if she hadn't bled. "It was caused by a trapped epiglottis," he said.

Lady Shari had minor surgery to correct the problem and judging by her race in the Canadian Derby the procedure was successful.

Lady Shari was impressive winning the Canadian Derby by seven lengths but Cotey warns that she's even better now. "She came out of the Canadian Derby in great shape and seems to have taken a big step forward," he said.

Because of the large purses at Woodbine, horses don't often leave Toronto. But Cotey has sent horses west the past two years. He won the Manitoba Derby with Stage Classic last year and Stage Classic probably would have finished better than fourth in the B.C. Derby if he hadn't missed the break.

"Lady Shari is a Kentucky-bred and there's just not that many races for her [in Toronto]," said Cotey. "Plus, she doesn't handle the turf at all and that also limits her opportunities. There's a race for her at Woodbine in three weeks, but if she runs well Saturday we could come back for either the B.C. Derby or Ballerina. We'll have to see how it goes before making any decisions."

Personify, another Oaks contender, doesn't have the credentials that Lady Shari has but she was good enough to win a $62,500 optional race at Hollywood Park on the turf this spring. She then ran poorly in both the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs and an allowance race at Arlington Park. She shipped into Lance Giesbrecht's barn about three weeks ago. "She's pretty hot-blooded," said Giesbrecht. "It took her a while to adjust but she has settled down nicely and didn't have any trouble handling the turns when she worked here last week."

Grace for You and Elana D'amour have accounted for six of the seven 3-year-old filly stakes at Hastings Park this year and are both coming into the Oaks in excellent shape. Grace for You out-dueled Elana D'amour to win the B.C. Cup Stallion Stakes on Aug. 5 and was sent to the farm for some rest.

"It was her third race in just over a month and it made sense to freshen her up for the Oaks," said her trainer, Terry Marshall. "We finished third with No Time Flat in the Canadian Derby so I'm not exactly thrilled to be running against Lady Shari again."

* Kid Katabatic has been sent home to the farm following his game win over Work Visa in last Monday's S.W. Randall Plate. "We've taken the shoes off and he'll get the rest of the year off," said his trainer, Shauna Ferguson.