07/07/2008 11:00PM

Miraculous Miss overdue

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MIAMI - You wouldn't think a horse on a 22-month losing streak would still be considered one of the elite members of her division, but such is the case with Miraculous Miss, who returns to Calder on Saturday for another shot at the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap for filly and mare sprinters.

Miraculous Miss was winless in 2007, yet came within a couple of yards of capturing the inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint when she was outfinished a half-length by the eventual Eclipse Award winner, Maryfield. A 5-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley, Miraculous Miss also finished third behind Maryfield in the Grade 1 Ballerina, third against Benny the Bull and males in the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial, and fifth in the Princess Rooney, while banking over $370,000 for co-owners Puglisi Stables and trainer Steve Klesaris. Her last victory came in Delaware Park's Grade 3 Endine Handicap in September of 2006.

"Obviously it's frustrating to us, her human connections, to have gone this long without winning a race with Miraculous Miss," said Klesaris. "But to me it's more frustrating for the filly herself, since she's accomplished so much over that period and yet doesn't have a win to show for all that she's done."

Suffering through a long losing streak was the last thing Klesaris or anybody else would have expected after Miraculous Miss opened her career by winning 6 of her first 7 starts. Her lone loss during that period came over an extremely sloppy track at Gulfstream Park in her 3-year-old debut in February of 2006. But an incident in the starting gate before her game victory in the Grade 2 Comely later that spring at Aqueduct might have been the turning point in her career, according to Klesaris.

"She fell upside down in the gate before the race, got cut up pretty good, and lost four or five months of her 3-year-old campaign at a time when she really had a great chance to win a Grade 1," said Klesaris. "Since then she's run a lot of big races and had a lot of bad luck, part of which is due to her running style, since she is a filly who does her best running from far back."

Miraculous Miss nearly ended her current losing streak on the biggest stage of them all, in the Breeders' Cup, over the boggy Monmouth Park track, when she finished full of run along the rail only to get outkicked at the end of the Filly and Mare Sprint by Maryfield.

"I don't think she ever saw that filly to her outside that day," said Klesaris. "Then she came right back and had a five-wide trip in the De Francis against Benny the Bull."

Klesaris gave Miraculous Miss a much-deserved rest during the winter, waiting to bring her back for her 2008 debut on Kentucky Derby Day in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs, where she again fell far back before rallying to finish fourth behind Intangaroo.

"That was one of those days at Churchill when the track was very firm, very fast, and it was tough to make up any ground," said Klesaris.

"But she's done extremely well since the Humana, and I like the fact the field for the Princess Rooney will be small this year. Last summer there were 13 in this race, and it's tough to get through all that traffic. There won't be so much traffic on Saturday."

Klesaris said his two goals with Miraculous Miss during the second half of the season are to get a Grade 1 win on her resume and to get back to the Breeders' Cup.

"This will probably be her last season of racing, and she's accomplished just about everything we could ask for but win a Grade 1," said Klesaris, who will not be in town to saddle Miraculous Miss in the Princess Rooney. "And it would be nice if she could get that out of the way, and finally put an end to this unfortunate losing streak, on Saturday."

As if Miraculous Miss hasn't had enough bad luck, she also lost her regular rider when Jeremy Rose was recently suspended for whip abuse for six months by the Delaware Park stewards. Klesaris reached out for a pretty good replacement, however, in the California-based Victor Espinoza.

"Victor's never been on her, but he's a top-notch rider and she's a top-notch filly, and that should make for a pretty good combination," said Klesaris.

Winning the Princess Rooney would automatically give Miraculous Miss a return ticket to the Breeders' Cup since it's been designated a Win and You're In race for the Filly and Mare Sprint. Saturday's Grade 2 Smile is also a Win and You're In event, for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Four of the seven starters in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney have not won a race in 2008. Like Miraculous Miss, starting highweight and likely favorite Dream Rush, Mistical Plan and Rgirldoesn'tbluff are all seeking their first victory of the season here Saturday.

Gelding a safe bet to place

Man of Danger, who could be the second choice behind the odds-on Benny the Bull in the Smile, is on a frustrating streak of his own.

The speedy gelding has finished second in all four starts this year, three of those runner-up performances coming in graded races, including the True North Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard when he was caught in the final strides by Benny the Bull.

* Two locally based contenders for Saturday's Summit of Speed got in their final preps here Tuesday, Dite Moi working a half-mile in 49 seconds for the Grade 3 Azalea and Hypocrite three furlongs in 36.20 seconds for his appearance in the Grade 2 Carry Back.