05/22/2002 11:00PM

'Meadow' finds an easier spot

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Spring Meadow should find the competition a bit softer than what she has been facing in California and Kentucky when she takes on nine other 3-year-old fillies in Saturday's $150,000 Stonerside Stakes at Lone Star Park.

This seven-furlong race is new to the calendar this meet, and has drawn a tough-to-separate group that includes stakes winners Emeraldforajudge, Miss Ritz, and Truly Sunlit. Adding to the race's depth is the unbeaten Savorthetime, and the stakes-placed Storm Witch and Gilded Wings.

Spring Meadow looked like a world-beater in January when she won her debut by four length in a blazing 1:08.80. She has been looking for her first stakes win ever since while knocking heads with such top- class fillies as Bella Bellucci, You, and Habibti.

In her most recent start, at Churchill Downs, Spring Meadow returned to the allowance ranks, but had the misfortune of hooking Tricky Indy and finished second.

"Going in, I thought we'd win for fun," said Bob Hess, who trains Spring Meadow. "But the horse that beat us is a real good filly."

Gerard Melancon has the mount on Miss Ritz, who won the $75,000 Wafare Farm Stakes in her seasonal debut last out by 1 3/4 lengths over 2-5 favorite Gilded Wings. Trainer Bob Young looks for Miss Ritz, a two-time stakes winner over the local strip, to move forward in her second start of the year.

"We don't have any excuses," said Young.

Trainer Steve Asmussen will send out two quick chestnut fillies who favor each other in both color and size: Storm Witch, to be ridden by Donnie Meche, and Gilded Wings, to be ridden by Corey Lanerie.

"They're identical fillies," Asmussen said. "In the paddock, they'll look like bookends."

Despite their similar looks, they've taken different paths to get to this race. Storm Witch was a Keeneland allowance winner in her last start, while Gilded Wings has placed in stakes at Lone Star and Oaklawn Park in her last two starts. Both show strong works for this race.

Another to consider is Emeraldforajudge, who cuts back to one turn after wiring the field last out in the $100,000 National Jockey Club Oaks at Sportsman's Park. If a speed duel were to develop, both she and Truly Sunlit, a strong closer, would benefit.

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