05/13/2008 11:00PM

Palanka City comes east for Miss Preakness


BALTIMORE - Trainer Terry Gestes is based in the Midwest but he hopes his 3-year-old filly Palanka City proves talented enough to take him on a tour of some of the East Coast's premier racetracks.

The first leg of that tour begins Friday when Palanka City takes on six rivals in the Grade 3, $100,000 Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico going six furlongs. If all goes well there, Palanka City could head to New York for races such as the Grade 1 Prioress at Belmont and the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga.

"I'm hoping so," Gestes said. "She's really come around. Off her last two races she should be tough with any sprinters."

After finishing 15 1/4 lengths behind Eight Belles in the Martha Washington at Oaklawn going one mile in February, Palanka City was turned back to six furlongs and won an allowance race and the Prima Donna Stakes, both at Oaklawn.

Palanka City then shipped to Prairie Meadows, where she worked a solid five furlongs in 59 seconds before stopping in Chicago to train at Arlington for a few days. She arrived in Baltimore on Sunday and has gotten a few mornings to gallop over the track.

Gestes has been thrilled with how Palanka City has trained leading up to this, and said he believes her versatility may be a key in a field that has plenty of speed.

"She shows tactical speed; if nobody wants the front end and they want to sit back, she can be in front," Gestes said. "There looks like a lot of speed in here. She can make sure the pace is fast and sit right off it and let everyone burn up."

The prospect of a wet track doesn't figure to hamper Palanka City, since she is a daughter of Carson City, who is known for being an excellent wet-track sire. Chris Emigh rides from post 4.

Hadavision made an auspicious 3-year-old debut, winning the $100,000 Peach Blossom Stakes at Delaware Park on April 19 under jockey Ramon Dominguez. It was her first start since last September and first for trainer Mark Shuman, who was given the filly in mid-February by the Elite Stables.

"She was in tight the whole way; Ramon was patient waiting for room," Shuman said. "She's training great, out of this world. She acts like she's a real nice 3-year-old filly. This should be our spot."

California shipper Beau's Valentine and the locally based Kosmo's Buddy should keep things hot up front. Peisinoe was an early scratch.

Woodlawn: Slight edge to Hatta Fort

Rick Mettee had wanted to get a prep race into Hatta Fort for the June 6 Hill Prince Stakes on the Belmont Park turf, but none would fill for him in New York. So Mettee, the assistant trainer to Saeed bin Suroor, will have to settle for showcasing the budding Godolphin Racing star before the Preakness Eve crowd in the $100,000 Woodlawn Stakes (race 9).

The Woodlawn, a one-mile turf race, drew nine 3-year-olds, with Hatta Fort likely to be favored over Prussian. Both colts exit races on opening weekend of the Keeneland spring meet, where Hatta Fort was barely beaten on Polytrack in the Lafayette Stakes, and Prussian was the beaten favorite in the Transylvania Stakes on turf.

Hatta Fort, an English-bred who began his career overseas with 2 wins from 6 starts, made quite an impression in his Stateside debut, earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure when flying from last to be beaten just a nose by Keep Laughing in the seven-furlong Lafayette. Garrett Gomez, who rode him at Keeneland, has the mount back Friday.

Prussian was an immediate standout when trainer Bill Mott unveiled him for a turf romp in his career debut last August at Saratoga.He captured the Grade 3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine in his next start.

If too much rain forces the Woodlawn off the turf - which according to weather forecasts seems entirely possible, although Pimlico officials say they will do everything they can not to transfer it - then both of the favorites are highly likely to scratch. That would make Malibu Kid, M J's Enchanteur, and Midnite Companion far more live.

- Marty McGee

The Very One: Dual-surface threat

Assuming it stays on turf, the $75,000 The Very One (race 11) should be a horseplayer's delight, if only because of its field size. As many as 14 fillies and mares, even after scratches, are scheduled to run in the five-furlong race.

On turf or dirt, Smart and Fancy clearly looks like the horse to beat for trainer Tony Dutrow, whose younger brother, Rick, will be in the spotlight Saturday when he sends out heavily favored Big Brown in the Preakness. Smart and Fancy is a real pro in sprints, dirt or turf, having amassed nearly $560,000 in career earnings while winning 10 of 17 starts.

On turf, her main competition appears to be Bikini Atoll, Weeks, and Cat on a Cloud. If off the turf, then Drama Lady, Akronism, and All Giving figure to move up.

Among the 17 entries, Kosmo's Buddy, Anofficerandalady, and Ahvee's Destiny were early scratches.- Marty McGee