12/18/2003 12:00AM

Pago Hop: Baie towers over 11 foes


NEW ORLEANS - Twelve 3-year-old fillies were entered in Saturday's $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes, but on paper the race is Baie, then the 11 others.

Baie, a French filly owned by the Six C Racing Stable of Andreas Putsch, has started just twice in North America, and faced Grade 1 competition both times. In France, where she made her first eight starts, Baie finished fourth, beaten just two lengths, in the Group 1 French Oaks last June.

"Baie is the horse to beat," trainer Steve Asmussen flatly stated, and Asmussen has Tiva's Little Sis, a viable contender, for the Pago Hop. "After her, we're right there with the best of them."

Baie finished fourth at nine furlongs in the Garden City Handicap and sixth, beaten just more than a length, in the 10-furlong E.P. Taylor Handicap. At one mile, the Pago Hop is on the short side for her, and it remains to be seen if Baie truly is cut out for American style turf racing.

But her trainer, Mark Frostad, believes she is, and said Baie is set for a strong showing.

"She's got quite a bit of quality, I think," Frostad said. "I'm not really sure myself on how far she wants to go, but she seems to be effective from a mile to a mile and three-eighths. She's been working really well on dirt. She seems to have a lot of ability."

Indeed, Baie shows four solid five-furlong works since she shipped into Fair Grounds, and she's probably ready to run well. But those trying to beat the favorite have 11 horses to choose from, and Baie does not appear to possess the quick turn of foot to keep her out of trouble or to overcome it in deep stretch.

Tiva's Little Sis has been moving forward with each race, and was a close fourth last month in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill.

Snowdrops, a troubled fourth of 12 last out in a minor Calder stakes, comes in from Florida for trainer Christophe Clement. And among the local contingent are a trio of fillies - Adopted Daughter, Belle of Perintown, and Rebridled Dreams - who have good credentials on dirt, but have never tried grass.

The most interesting of those three is Belle of Perintown, who won the Grade 2 Silverbulletday here last year by more than eight lengths and was third in the Fair Grounds Oaks, but subsequently suffered an injury and has turned in modest performances in two starts since then.