05/19/2005 11:00PM

Miss Preakness: Burnish rolls in mud

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Trainer Nick Zito got his Preakness weekend off to a good start when Burnish rallied down the center of the sloppy main track to win the Grade 3, $100,000 by two lengths over Partners Due. It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Hot Storm in third.

Burnish, a daughter of Menifee owned and bred by Arthur Hancock, won for the fourth time in six starts. She was coming off a 10 1/4-length victory in the slop at Keeneland, so when the skies opened Friday morning and dumped more than an inch of rain on the track, Zito was happy.

After breaking sharply, Burnish was taken off the pace by Rafael Bejarano. She settled into fifth position while Missile Bay set fractions of 23.75 and 46.80 while being chased by Partners Due.

Partners Due put Missile Bay away at the three-sixteenths pole, but could not hold off Burnish, who took control inside the sixteenth pole. Burnish ($5.60) covered the six furlongs in 1:12.40 over the sloppy track.

"She broke in the front, but I didn't want to use my horse too much,'' Bejarano said. "I saved my horse a little bit, and at the three-eighths pole when I asked my horse I knew she could really finish.''

"She ran big, she ran huge,'' said Zito, who was scheduled to send out three horses in Saturday's Preakness Stakes. "Her mother [Burnished Bright] was a sprinter, so we'll keep her sprinting for a while and see what she can do.''

Maddalena, the 3-2 favorite who was 3 for 3 on off tracks, was never involved after breaking inward and finished last of seven.

"When that wave of slop hit her in the face she started climbing and Johnny [Velazquez] could never get her to level off,'' Pletcher said.