05/16/2008 12:00AM

Morgan filly a natural on the turf


ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Dan Morgan couldn't have asked for a better homecoming present than Sunday's $75,000 Golden Poppy Handicap at Golden Gate Fields. The 1 1/16-mile turf stakes is for 3-year-old fillies, and the Morgan-trained Bitterbutsweet loves the turf. She has won two straight turf stakes at Turf Paradise and has won 3 of her 4 starts on grass, finishing third in the other.

Morgan, from Pleasanton, Calif., will be making his annual summer homecoming, bringing eight horses from Phoenix, including several 2-year-olds he hopes will be ready for the summer fair season. A $35,000 Keeneland yearling purchase in September 2006, Bitterbutsweet ran fifth in her debut at Bay Meadows last fall. She finally won her maiden in her third start, her turf debut.

Five fillies will join her in the Golden Poppy. Shes a Lucky Wager, claimed for $32,000 in her last start May 2 at Bay Meadows, and Respecttheofficer, the runner-up in her April 30 turf debut at Hollywood Park, were both stakes-placed as 2-year-olds. Shes a Lucky Wager has won 2 of 4 turf starts. The French-bred Royale Action will make her first start of the year. She finished sixth last November in the Grade 3 Miesque at Hollywood in her only U.S. start. Misty Ocean is entered off her first turf victory in a $32,000 optional claimer, in which she beat the favored Shes a Lucky Wager. Two Thirds Victory, who has hit the board in 3 of 4 turf starts, rounds out the field after running third in an April 3 $40,000 starter allowance.

Morgan is glad to have a chance to keep Bitterbutsweet on the turf.

"We always thought she'd like running on grass, being by Lemon Drop Kid," he said. "After her maiden win, they didn't have many turf races for 3-year-old fillies, and they couldn't get anything to go long [at Turf Paradise]."

Before returning to the turf, Bitterbutsweet ran second in the $50,000 Sun Devil Handicap on the Turf Paradise dirt and then fifth in the Arizona Oaks. Bitterbutsweet closed nicely in winning a pair of one-mile $30,000 turf stakes, the March 31 Scottsdale and the May 3 Desert Sky. Both wins were by less than a length. Morgan believes his filly will benefit from the extra distance Sunday but isn't sure how she will handle the stronger competition.