04/09/2003 11:00PM

Mysterious Affair: Does she need one?

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Classy comebackers Mysterious Affair and Devastating head a strong field of 10 fillies and mares in Saturday's $140,250 Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine.

Mysterious Affair, victorious in the last two runnings of the Whimsical, has won 11 of 25 career starts while earning $845,045. She had a typically good year in 2002, winning two stakes and compiling nearly $300,000 in earnings despite missing the second half of the year.

Owner-trainer Mort Hardy said Mysterious Affair simply wasn't herself after a workout last August.

"She didn't work very good, and wasn't standing square after, so I decided to stop on her," Hardy recalled. "She might have only needed a month or so off, but I decided to give her the rest of the year off."

Hardy cautioned that Mysterious Affair is probably a race away from her peak.

"She worked five-eighths in 57.60 the other day and got a little tired," Hardy said. "I would have liked to have gotten another work into her."

Devastating, a chestnut with nearly $400,000 in earnings, finished third in the 2002 Whimsical while coming off a layoff. She went on to win two seven-furlong stakes, and has been absent since running second to Small Promises in the Sept. 24 H.A. Hindmarsh Stakes at Fort Erie.

Trainer Robbie King Jr. is content with Devastating's progress, but noted that in the past she hasn't fired her best shot first time back from a break.

"She's been going well," King said. "She worked a little quick April 1 [five furlongs in 57.40]. She came back and breezed in half in 50.40 on Monday. She's been pretty bang-on, but for whatever reason, she always seems to need one."

King said Devastating got all worked up in the paddock before her only poor performance last year, in the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga.

Also entered in the six-furlong Whimsical are Marisa Go, Mille Feville, Acting Deputy, Dreams Go Bye, Fleet of Foot, Brass in Pocket, Leading Role, and Touch of Ginger.

Dreams Go Bye set the pace in the March 23 La Voyageuse Handicap and looked the part of a winner at the head of the stretch, only to weaken late and finish second to Acting Deputy.

"It was heartbreaking," said Mike Catania, who trains Dreams Go Bye. "I think the 7-hole hurt her a little, because she had to work pretty hard to get the lead."

Fleet of Foot closed for third after getting away slowly in the five-furlong La Voyageuse and should be sharper this time.