07/08/2003 12:00AM

Live from New York! Four in 'Rooney' cast


MIAMI - A year ago, the intimidating presence of reigning Eclipse Award winner Xtra Heat held the field for the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Handicap down to just six starters. But with no Xtra Heats in the picture this summer and with the purse increased to a record $500,000, fillies and mares from all across America are expected to converge on Calder for Saturday's 20th renewal of the six-furlong dash.

The Princess Rooney will share top billing on the $1.75 million Summit of Speed program, along with the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap. The card also includes the $300,000 Azalea and Carry Back stakes for 3-year-olds, the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap, and the $50,000 Rocket Man Stakes.

Four of the prospective starters for the Princess Rooney will be coming here from New York, including 2002 Princess Rooney winner Gold Mover, who upset Xtra Heat in this race a year ago. She will be accompanied on a Thursday flight to Miami by Harmony Lodge, Shawklit Mint, and Here's Zealous.

Harmony Lodge already has defeated Gold Mover, beating her in Gulfstream Park's Shirley Jones Handicap on March 16. Gold Mover avenged that loss five weeks later in the Hurricane Bertie.

"I think my horse and Gold Mover are pretty even in ability," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Harmony Lodge for owners Eugene and Laura Melnyk. "It just depends on how the race sets up. My filly has really gotten to be very consistent and is in good form right now. She doesn't mind an off track, ships well, and the turn back to six furlongs should be good for her."

Harmony Lodge comes off one of the top performances of her career, a 5 1/2-length victory in Woodbine's seven-furlong Sweet Briar Too Stakes on June 22.

Trainer Pat Reynolds is high on the chances of Shawklit Mint, who upset Gold Mover over a wet track in Belmont's Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap on June 8. The victory was the fourth in a row - and the first graded win - for the New York-bred Shawklit Mint.

"She's so sharp now," said Reynolds. "In the Vagrancy she just broke running. The track was soupy and to her liking and she just ran away from the other fillies in the race. She's improved steadily this spring and has trained extremely well since her last race. She didn't work exceptionally fast the other day, but galloped out like a jet plane - and when she does that it's indicative that a good race is coming up."

Among the other expected Princess Rooney invaders are For Rubies and Miss Lodi, both of whom were to fly in from Kentucky on Wednesday.

Miss Lodi is looking to rebound from a disappointing effort in Arlington Park's Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap, a well-beaten fifth behind For Rubies. Her biggest victory to date came at the expense of For Rubies in last year's Grade 3 Safely Kept Stakes at Pimlico.

"I have no explanation for why she ran so badly in Chicago," said trainer Tom Amoss. "She's been training great, so we'll just line her up and try again."

Amoss has secured Pat Valenzuela to ride Miss Lodi in the Princess Rooney.

* Accompanying Miss Lodi to Florida will be her stablemate, Lone Star Sky, who will be among the top contenders in the Carry Back Stakes. Lone Star Sky, who finished 15th after encountering early trouble in the Kentucky Derby, breezed an easy half-mile in 50.60 seconds at Churchill Downs on Tuesday.