03/24/2011 3:46PM

Oaklawn Park: Gran Lioness, Arienza heading in different directions after Prima Donna

Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
Arienza steps up to stakes competition for Saturday's Prima Donna at Oaklawn.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The $75,000 Prima Donna for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs at Oaklawn on Saturday is something of a springboard to different distance goals for leading contenders Gran Lioness, who was third in last month’s Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra, and Arienza, a daughter of Horse of the Year Azeri.

In all, a field of eight will go, including stakes-winning sprinter Lady Giacamo.

Gran Lioness is turning back from 1 1/16 miles. She set the pace to the late stages in the Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in her last start Feb. 19. The race came following a front-running win in the $200,000 My Trusty Cat at seven furlongs at Delta Downs on Jan. 14. The turnback Saturday is a harbor of things to come for Gran Lioness.

“We thought that about a mile is all she wants and we’re kind of thinking seven-eighths is probably her ideal distance,” said Bret Calhoun, who trains Gran Lioness for Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch. “We’ve mapped out a schedule to back her up to six furlongs, then head to Keeneland to go seven-eighths in the Beaumont.

“She’s proven pretty good sprinting, and she’s all right two turns, but I think at a mile or less. I’m pretty excited about running her Saturday.”

Cliff Berry has the mount on Gran Lioness, who in the My Trusty Cat earned one of the year’s best Beyer Speed Figures for a 3-year-old filly, a 97.

Arienza was a smashing debut winner at Oaklawn on March 6, when she defeated older horses in a maiden special weight. Arienza covered six furlongs in 1:10.40 and earned a Beyer of 83. In time, her connections would like to give her a shot at two turns, perhaps in the Grade 2 Fantasy or the Instant Racing, both run next month at Oaklawn.

“The two-turn stuff is all down the road,” said trainer Dan Peitz, “but one would assume being by Giant’s Causeway and out of Azeri, that two turns should be what she really likes. We’ll see how she runs and how she comes out of it.”

Arienza faces a test Saturday, with one of her challenges being her inexperience.

“I’m assuming we’re going to be in with a bunch of fillies that have run a bunch of times, that just have that experience,” Peitz said. “We obviously have a world of ability. Now, we’re getting some experience.”

Terry Thompson has the mount for owners Robert and Lawana Low.