01/04/2007 12:00AM

Pair appear evenly match in Marshua


Two fillies who earned nearly identical Beyer Speed Figures while winning their most recent races, one in a restricted stakes at Penn National and the other against first-level allowance runners in her first start in Maryland, are the prime contenders in Saturday's $90,000 Marshua Stakes at Laurel Park.

The 5 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies drew a field of seven.

Cajun Hottie, a homebred daughter of Dixieland Heat, will be running for the first time since capturing the Blue Mountain Juvenile, a six-furlong race for Pennsylvania-breds, by 5 1/4 lengths on Nov. 30. She brings along her regular rider, Jose Flores, who has guided the filly to back-to-back victories.

Deep Dish Wildcat, currently based in New York with trainer Ben Perkins Jr., returned from a three-month layoff to score a half-length victory going 5 1/2 furlongs at Laurel on Nov. 22. Her Beyer Figure of 72 is one point lower than Cajun Hottie earned for her stakes win at Penn National.

Deep Dish Wildcat's most recent outing has turned out to be a fairly productive race. Although the runner-up, Rolling True, came back to finish eighth in last weekend's Sandpiper Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, the fillies who ran three-four behind Deep Dish Wildcat subsequently ran well. Icy One O Four was third in a restricted stakes at Philadelphia Park, and Earlybird Road returned to finish second, then first in a pair of $25,000 claiming races.

Two other fillies in the Marshua who merit respect are Luxury Class, who won her local debut three weeks ago following a three-month layoff, and Laila's Punch, who crushed nine maiden rivals by 8 1/4 lengths on Oct. 12.

"This filly has a lot of talent," said trainer Eddie Gaudet, who thought so highly of Laila's Punch that she made her career debut in a stakes.

"She was blowing the others away in the morning, and that's why I decided to start her first time in that stake," Gaudet said. "Maybe I shouldn't have, but she came back and won the next one really big, and that's the real her."

The fillies who finished two-three-four behind Laila's Punch in her maiden victory, however, have since combined to go 0 for 5 - none finishing better than fourth.