04/13/2005 12:00AM

Oaks next if Cape Hope takes to dirt


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Cape Hope has established herself as one of the best 3-year-old turf fillies in the country. Friday, she could make a case for being one of the best, period, when she returns to the main track in the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park.

"We'll see how it works," said Dallas Stewart, who trains Cape Hope. "If she does good, we'll have a chance to run her in the [Kentucky] Oaks."

Cape Hope, who has never been beaten on turf or around two turns, comes into the Fantasy on the heels of four consecutive turf wins, including two stakes at Gulfstream Park, the $60,000 Gaily Gaily and the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride.

Stewart first switched Cape Hope to turf in December, coinciding with her move to two turns, and she drew out to a six-length win in a one-mile maiden race at Fair Grounds.

Cape Hope returned in her next start to win an entry-level allowance by 6 1/4 lengths, and from there headed to Gulfstream. In her two career dirt starts, she ran fourth and third in six-furlong races at the beginning of her career in Kentucky.

"She's a big filly," said Stewart. "We took our time with her and didn't start her until later on in the fall, and stretched her out when we could. She's definitely top-notch on the turf; she's one of the better fillies in the country, and we hope to carry over on the dirt. You never know until you try."

Cape Hope is a daughter of Cape Town, and her winning dam, Corporate Debut, is a half-sister to Boone's Mill, a Grade 2 winner on dirt who earned $400,214. Cape Hope races for her breeder, Overbrook Farm.

Kuntzweiler omnipresent

Jockey Greta Kuntzweiler is everywhere these days. She is in a Volvo commercial running on the Internet. She gets a mention in "Soul Surfer," the new book by surfer Bethany Hamilton. And she will be aboard the promising Rugula in the Fantasy.

Rugula was second in the prep for the Fantasy, when she played runner-up to Round Pond in the $75,000 Honeybee. Rugula set the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race on March 20.

"The only reason she was on the lead last time was because everyone else took a hold," said Kuntzweiler. "I was expecting her to rate that day. In this race, there will definitely be some that will go, and I think she will sit right off of it.

"I think she'll run a good race. I know it's a tough race, but I look for a big effort."

So does Grant Forster, who trains Rugula. Earlier this meet, the filly finished second to stakes winner True Tails in a six-furlong allowance at Oaklawn.

"I think she's still got a lot of improvement left in her," said Forster. "Last time was only her first time going long."

Forster said Rugula is nominated to the Kentucky Oaks, and with a win in the Fantasy she would head to the race. Other options for her, he said, would be races like the Grade 3, $100,000 La Troienne on May 5 or the $100,000 Edgewood on turf on May 6. Both are at Churchill Downs.

"She's certainly got a lot of grass in her pedigree, and that's something we want to try," Forster said.

Kuntzweiler has ridden Rugula, a daughter of Bernstein, in the two starts she has made for Forster.

"She gets along really well with her," said Forster. "I really like Greta on these kind of fillies in particular, because she's really good at getting them to relax and finish strong."

Kuntzweiler shot the Volvo commercial in Portugal with Hamilton, who lost an arm in a shark attack. Part of the "Life in Motion" series, the commercials pair people with interesting life stories and send them on the road in a Volvo.

"We drove along these coastal roads, through little villages," said Kuntzweiler. "I had never been out of the country before, and it was a great opportunity. [Bethany] taught me how to surf."

Kuntzweiler will ride next in Chicago.

Maiden arrives for derby

Canteen arrived from Southern California early Wednesday afternoon to start in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Canteen won his maiden in his last start but was disqualified for interference. He will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.

Also on the flight from Southern California was She Sings, who is entered in the Fantasy and also cross-entered in the $100,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup on the Arkansas Derby undercard. Also on Saturday's card is the $75,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup, led by Munificence.