03/18/2009 11:00PM

Maiden filly has big shot to win restricted stakes


Rarely have so many that have accomplished so little run for so much - and in a race with an especially long name.

Yes, there are 17 horses entered in two divisions of the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation Sales Graduate Stakes on Saturday at Hawthorne. Among them are 12 maidens, many of whom do not seem likely to win any time soon. But merely because they passed through a 2008 2-year-olds in training auction - whether purchased or not - the horses run for a $50,000 purse in races 7 and 8, both at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Race 7 is for colts and geldings, race 8 for fillies, and on this day, the girls look stronger. The filly division of the sales stakes has three winners in an eight-horse field, but it is one of the maidens, Belong Again, who might be the horse to beat. Belong Again fetched a $26,000 bid at last year's sale, and has some talent. She made her career debut less than a month ago, on Feb. 26 at Oaklawn Park, and came within a head of winning an open maiden race there. Breaking from the fence at odds of 37-1, Belong Again tracked a moderate pace, launched a stretch rally, and missed a debut victory by a head. On March 13, trainer Jerry Calvin sent Belong Again through a solid-looking half-mile gate work on a wet track, and Belong Again should make short work of most of these opponents.

The one who might have a chance to beat her is Prairie Prize. Prairie Prize debuted locally Jan. 2 and finished third in a productive maiden sprint, and came back to win an open maiden race Feb. 7 at Turfway Park. She has since worked twice for trainer Joel Berndt, and seems to be well-drawn on the outside.

A handicapper could easily like the top two choices in the filly race to finish one-two in the race for the boys, as well. Trainer Tom Swearingen has three of the nine horses entered here, and one of them, Where's Winston, could be favored. Where's Winston's lone win in eight starts came over Illinois-bred $15,000 maiden claimers late last year, but racing with Lasix for the first time, he finished second by a nose here March 6 in a $25,000 nonwinners-of-two claimer.

King Ajax made his career debut on March 7, running an even fifth of 10 over a sloppy track in an Illinois-bred maiden special weight race. The performance did not exactly bode greatness - but it was sufficient to make King Ajax look like a major player on Saturday.