12/11/2002 12:00AM

Lady Stars shadowed by label


MIAMI - Lady Stars has won 4 of 5 starts, with her only loss coming at the hands of Puxa Saco, who has won two stakes since shipping to the West Coast earlier this fall. But despite her imposing credentials, Lady Stars will likely be among the outsiders when she makes her stakes debut in Saturday's $100,000 Three Ring Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Lady Stars may be overlooked in the 1 1/16-mile Three Ring for several reasons: She has yet to start around two turns or win beyond 6 1/2 furlongs; and, secondly, she is a former claimer, having been purchased by her present connections for $40,000 on Sept. 30.

Trainer Steve Towne plucked Lady Stars out of the selling ranks for the Track Ho Farms LLC, the nom de course for owners Dave Oberting, Dale Hood, and John Hood. The three are relatively new in the business.

"Lady Stars is Dave's first horse," said Towne. "Dale owned pieces of a couple of horses with other owners prior to acquiring this filly. John is Dale's father, and to my knowledge this is his first venture also."

Lady Stars won her career debut, outlasting Scapade for a neck victory under a $50,000 claiming price. She moved right into allowance company off the win and gave the odds-on Puxa Saco all she could handle before eventually settling for second money. When she dropped back into the selling ranks with a $40,000 price tag on her head, Towne did not hesitate to fill out the claim slip.

"I had been looking for a horse for Dave, Dale, and John for quite some time without any success," said Towne. "I watched Lady Stars run when she was second to Puxa Saco and was impressed with her effort. Needless to say, I was a little surprised to see her drop in for a $40,000 tag, but we decided to take her the minute that overnight came out."

Towne, 50, has spent most of his 26 years in the business at Calder. His best horse was Exclusive Praline, a well-traveled multiple stakes winner whose resume included wins in Hialeah's Bahama Stakes, Keeneland's Lafayette, and the Ohio Derby.

"Overall, this might be the best year I've had yet," said Towne. "We had the fourth highest win percentage during the Calder meet and were awarded barn of the month honors here for October."

Towne is not exactly sure what to expect from Lady Stars in the Three Ring.

"She acts like she'll run long, and I guess we'll find out just how good she is this weekend," said Towne. "I usually like to see my horses on the lead the first time they go long, so that's probably the strategy we'll be looking at on Saturday."

Axthelm, Genter nominations out

Nominations have been released for the $100,000 Pete Axthelm and its filly counterpart, the Frances A. Genter Stakes, on Dec. 21. Both races are for 3-year-olds going 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

Among the most prominent nominees to the Axthelm are Union Place and Miesque's Approval, one-two finishers in the Calder Derby on Oct. 12.

Allamerican Bertie, Cellars Shiraz, and Nonsuch Bay top the list of 29 nominees to the Genter.