03/12/2004 12:00AM

'Mist' tries to go out with a win

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sunday's $100,000 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs is virtually a rematch of the Endeavour Stakes, decided over this same course five weeks earlier.

Eight of the 12 starters in the 1 1/8-mile Hillsborough come out of the Endeavour, including Madeira Mist, Something Ventured, and Coney Kitty, who finished within three-quarters of a length of one another in the roughly run contest.

Madeira Mist, trained by Christophe Clement, had to survive a tough trip and a claim of foul by the rider of Something Ventured before being confirmed the winner of the Endeavour. Something Ventured dropped back to last in the opening quarter-mile, made a strong run to join the leaders in early stretch, was brushed by Madeira Mist in deep stretch, and hung near the end to finish second.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Something Ventured, thought she could have justifiably been placed first due to the incident in late stretch, while Clement understandably felt otherwise.

"The two horses bumped a little bit, the stewards inquired and decided not to make a change. And the stewards are always right," Clement said with a laugh.

Unfortunately for Madeira Mist, the Hillsborough will be decided under allowance conditions, which means she must pick up six pounds as a result of her win in the Endeavour.

The Hillsborough will be the final start of Madeira Mist's career. She will be sent to the breeding shed this spring.

Something Ventured turned in a courageous effort in defeat in the Endeavour but now remains winless since capturing Belmont's Auntie Mame Stakes in late June.

"She's a tricky filly to ride," said Pletcher. "Timing is everything with her. She's been a very consistent filly on grass for the most part and has trained very well since her last start."

Coney Kitty may have had the worst trip of all in the Endeavour. She was boxed in around the second turned and fanned extremely wide into the stretch before finishing willingly a neck behind Something Ventured. The setback marked the fourth straight time Coney Kitty has turned in a big effort against stakes company only to fall short.

Chef's Choice set a contested pace in the Endeavour before fading to sixth, but her two early challengers that day are not in the Hillsborough. That makes her a threat to steal the race if allowed to relax on the lead.

- additional reporting by David Grening