05/11/2006 12:00AM

Off last, Saoirse Cat has edge

Bill Denver / Equi-Photos
Art Show, winning at The Meadowlands, has not raced since November.

Art Show, a stakes winner on turf at 2 last fall, and Saoirse Cat, who faded to fourth after setting the pace in last month's Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland, have something in common besides the fact both fillies are entered in Saturday's $85,000 Hilltop Breeders' Cup at Pimlico. The 1 1/16-mile turf race drew a field of eight 3-year-old fillies.

In their most recent start, both faced one of the East Coast's leading grass fillies, J'ray.

Based solely on their performance against J'ray, a three-time stakes winner whose winning streak ended in the Appalachian on April 23, Saoirse Cat merits a slight edge over Art Show, who has been idle since November.

In the one-mile Appalachian, Saoirse Cat, trained by Bill Mott, led for the first six furlongs before weakening to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind third-place J'ray.

Last November, Art Show came off a wire-to-wire win in the Salem County at The Meadowlands to finish fourth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths by J'ray, in the Selima at Laurel Park. Art Show was forced to steady, however, and might have finished closer to the winner with a clean trip.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has a three-horse, uncoupled entry. Of the trio, Ebony Rose appears most dangerous. The only two-time winner on grass in the field besides Art Show, has been freshened since beating 11 rivals in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream Park in late March. She was two lengths behind Art Show in the Selima.

Should wet weather force the race onto the main track, the Pletcher-trained would be formidable. She has run in two graded stakes on dirt and was beaten less than five lengths each time, including a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Silverbulletday at Louisiana Downs in January.

Delaware: No standout in Pollys Jet

Quelle Surprise, a stakes winner at nearly 30-1 last time out at Tampa Bay Downs, and Amandatude, returning to a route after finishing second in a sprint stakes, head an evenly matched group of 3-year-old fillies in the $50,000 Pollys Jet at Delaware Park.

The one-mile overnight stakes drew 14 horses, but only 10 will be permitted to start.

Quelle Surprise gave a performance fitting of her name when she upset the seven-furlong Sophomore Fillies, getting up just before the wire and paying $61. She showed her affinity for Delaware's surface when she worked a bullet four furlongs in 47 seconds last weekend.

Amandatude dominated a field of maidens going a mile at Delaware last November, then was second twice going long in first-level allowance races at Gulfstream Park. Now making the second start of her form cycle, she is eligible to improve stretching out from her runner-up effort in the six-furlong Peach Blossom Stakes three weeks ago.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Mama Nadine takes a distinct class drop after flashing speed and tiring in the Grade 2 Comely at Aqueduct nearly a month ago.

Others in good form include Tazaliya, wire-to-wire winner of a second-level allowance at Philadelphia Park two weeks ago; Gold Stones, a closer who finished four lengths behind Tazaliya last time out and now gets a major rider shift to Tony Black; and Nancy Creek, winner of a first-level allowance for Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Michael Matz in late April.

Philadelphia: Third matchup of rivals

Banjo Picker has finished a neck in front of Nittany Express the last two times they met, and he squares off against that arch rival again in the $50,000 Lyman Sprint Championship Handicap. The seven-furlong race, restricted to Pennsylvania-breds, is the first stakes of the season at Philadelphia Park.

The 6-year-old Banjo Picker, winner of the Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap in New York at 47-1 last December, held off Nittany Express in last year's Lyman and barely beat him again in a seven-furlong money allowance on April 2. Nittany Express was awarded the win in the April 2 race when Banjo Picker was disqualified for drifting out in the stretch.

Since then, Nittany Express, based at Penn National with trainer Todd Beattie, got up by a nose in a $46,200 allowance going a mile at Mountaineer.

Beattie also has entered Leprechaun's Gold, a speedy 4-year-old formerly trained by the late John Zimmerman. Leprechaun's Gold, who is not coupled with Nittany Express, most recently earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 for his romp over third-level allowance runners at Penn National. Since then, he has posted a pair of five-furlong bullet workouts, including a sizzling 56.60-second move last Saturday.