12/15/2005 12:00AM

'Mary' gets stakes test against statebreds


Any 4-year-old who's still a maiden and racing for a claiming tag doesn't figure to have much talent.

Trainer Tony Dutrow, however, saw something he liked about Bless My Mary and took her on behalf of Michael Dubb for $25,000 out of a maiden race at Delaware Park in July.

Although Bless My Mary was badly beaten as the 6-5 favorite that day, she has done nothing wrong since coming under Dutrow's care, winning three consecutive sprints by a combined margin of 13 1/4 lengths.

Dutrow will find out if Bless My Mary is good enough to step up to stakes company in Saturday's $50,000 Squan Song at Laurel Park. The seven-furlong race, restricted to Maryland-bred fillies and mares, drew a field of 11, including an entry.

This fall, Dutrow attempted to run Bless My Mary in a pair of turf sprints against allowance company, but both times the races were shifted to the main track. It didn't matter, as Bless My Mary easily won both starts with solid Beyer Speed Figures of 83 and 87.

Now, she will be asked to travel an extra quarter-mile, and Dutrow is enthusiastic about her chances.

"She's in great form right now," he said. "She hasn't faced this level of competition yet, but has given us every reason to try [stakes company]. She has the speed and talent to secure the lead but can also rate if need be."

The likely favorite is Starleena, a 3-year-old based in Kentucky with trainer Bernie Flint who ran extremely well three of the four times she shipped to Mountaineer Race Track. Her lone poor performance came when she faded badly last time out.

Flint said he believes Starleena had a legitimate excuse.

"She may have been in heat that day," Flint said. "In any case, she was off her game, and having a 44-and-change half-mile thrown at her didn't help. I would be surprised if she didn't run back to her best form this weekend."

Feelin' the Breeze, Key Storm, and Miss Lombardi all come into the Squan Song in sharp form.

Feelin' the Breeze is one of three horses entered by trainer Dickie Small, but she is not coupled in the wagering with stablemates Magical Broad and Dynamic Deputy. She shortens up slightly after three good efforts at one mile.

Key Storm and Miss Lombardi both defeated high-priced optional claiming sprinters at Laurel in their most recent starts.