03/08/2007 12:00AM

New faces loom large in Oaks

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NEW ORLEANS - The first four finishers from the Feb. 10 Silverbulletday will return in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks. But anyone expecting to see a rerun of that race is probably in for a surprise, because there are significant new players in the Oaks and the pace of this 1 1/16-mile race should be considerably faster.

Octave will be making her first start since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

"We've given her a little freshening after the Breeders' Cup," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "She's filled out into a beautiful 3-year-old filly."

Octave won her maiden at Belmont in her first start, then finished second in the Astoria before winning the Grade 2 Adirondack Breeders' Cup at Saratoga. She was second by a head in the Grade 1 Matron before her Breeders' Cup start.

A daughter of Unbridled's Song, she has been working at Palm Beach Downs in Florida since January.

"We feel like we've got her in pretty good shape," said Pletcher. "You'd like to have one more work into her, but generally our horses do pretty well off the layoff."

California invader Mistical Plan, who ships in for trainer Doug O'Neill after a victory in the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Oaks, is another new player who could have a say in the outcome.

Silverbulletday winner Appealing Zophie, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup after disputing the pace, also won the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga as a 2-year-old. A daughter of Successful Appeal trained by Steve Asmussen, she began her 3-year-old campaign with a front-running score in the Silverbulletday. After running six furlongs in a slow 1:13.60 that day, Appealing Zophie had plenty left to repulse a bid from Total.

No one is expecting that kind of pace on Saturday, least of all trainer Tom Amoss, who has entered the sprinter Whatdreamsraemadeof.

"It's an aggressive spot to put her in," said Amoss. "We have a horse that we believe can make the lead in there, so we're going to make the lead and see how long she can last."

The promise of a hotter pace was good news for the connections of the other Silverbulletday runners who are back for this race.

Total, a late-developing Forest Wildcat filly, was making her first start around two turns in the Silverbulletday. She has progressed since then, according to trainer Al Stall Jr.

"She acts like she's more focused," said Stall, who added that her outside post will help. "I like that spot outside the speed."

Trainer Steve Flint is expecting more out of Silverbulletday third-place finisher Get Ready Bertie with a rider change to Edgar Prado.

"He's really good at adjusting to the situation as it develops," said Flint.

Trainer Wes Hawley expects Dawn After Dawn, who will again be ridden by Joe Talamo, to finish better than fourth this time.

"We tried taking her back," he said. "The rider didn't know whether to go or take back some more, and he took back, which I think was the wrong decision."

Smitty's Sunshine tops Bienville

Smitty's Sunshine is a Louisiana-bred who has been torching open company on the grass wherever she goes. After smashing a statebred grass allowance field by 10 lengths while still a maiden, Smitty's Sunshine lost her next two starts, both in Louisiana-bred stakes company. She has since reeled off three consecutive turf scores in open company, the most recent a trouncing of local sprinters in the Leggio Memorial here last month. She will face 11 rivals in the $100,000 Bienville.

"She hasn't done anything wrong," said trainer Morris Nicks. "It seems like the faster they go the better she likes it."