01/25/2002 12:00AM

A New Twist in new role as favorite


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A New Twist goes from hunter to hunted as she aims for her second straight stakes victory Sunday, facing six rivals in the $100,000, Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Three weeks ago, the public made Forest Heiress a 3-10 favorite for the Old Hat Stakes, while sending A New Twist off at 4-1. A New Twist ran Forest Heiress off her feet in scoring a 3 1/2-length gate-to-wire victory. The result was a reversal from the Valley Stream Stakes at Aqueduct in November when Forest Heiress ran down A New Twist to win by three lengths.

Sunday was supposed to be the rubber match, but Forest Heiress was diagnosed with a bruised foot after the Old Hat, leaving A New Twist as a likely odds-on choice in the seven-furlong Forward Gal.

In winning the Old Hat, A New Twist ran a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 103, giving trainer John Kimmel reason to fret over a possible bounce scenario. But with no place else to run for two months and A New Twist doing well, Kimmel will enter the horse with confidence. Moreover, A New Twist looms the controlling speed despite a 121-pound impost.

"I don't think it was a gut-wrenching performance for her, but it was a good, solid effort," Kimmel said of the Old Hat. "When they run that hard, preferably you would like to have a little more time. There's no indication from my end that she couldn't go out there and run another good race. She's going to be a heavy favorite. With Forest Heiress out of there, it might be a less difficult spot."

The Forward Gal will be A New Twist's first start at seven furlongs, a distance that Kimmel and jockey Edgar Prado believe is well within her scope.

"She was mentally more relaxed and more professional in the paddock, in the post parade and in the gate," Prado said, referring to A New Twist's demeanor in the Old Hat. "I don't think seven-eighths will be any problem for her."

With Forest Heiress out, the two biggest challenges to A New Twist figure to come from French Satin and Blissful Kiss. French Satin finished third in the Old Hat after breaking slowly and trying to close on a speed-favoring track.

Blissful Kiss cuts back to a sprint for her 3-year-old debut, after finishing a well-beaten fourth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at nine furlongs last November. She has been firing bullets in the morning at Calder for trainer Bill White.

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