01/16/2009 12:00AM

Palanka City tries to boost sprint profile


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Palanka City could develop into a player in the filly and mare sprint ranks in 2009. The first step will come Saturday, when she takes on nine others in the $50,000 American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The six-furlong race for fillies and mares has drawn a host of stakes winners, including Rated Fiesty, Maren's Meadow, Superior Storm, and Annie Savoy.

Palanka City will be a top choice in the race following a 3-year-old season in which she won three stakes, including the Grade 3 Miss Preakness at Pimlico and the $50,000 Prima Donna at Oaklawn. She faced such top-class sprinters as Indian Blessing, to whom she finished fourth in the Grade 1 Test, and Indyanne. The direction of her campaign this season will be determined over the next few months.

"As far as starting off, we'll hit the sprint series at Oaklawn Park and kind of evaluate things after that," said Terry Gestes, who trains Palanka City for William Stiritz. "We'll see how she matches up against older horses.

"She's doing really well. She breezed a nice three-quarters last week, and was full of run."

The American Beauty will be Palanka City's first start since Oct. 31, when she finished fourth in the $60,000 Dream Supreme Handicap at Churchill Downs. She drew the rail for her return, and figures to be prominent under jockey Chris Emigh.

Maren's Meadow will be making her first start since September on Saturday. She won two Grade 3 stakes last year, the Monmouth Oaks at 1 1/16 miles in August and the Bourbonette Oaks at a mile at Turfway Park in March.

"We'll go back to running her long, but since she's been off for a while she's pretty fresh, so possibly she can sprint first time out," said Larry Jones, who trains Maren's Meadow for River Ridge Ranch.

Maren's Meadow has had sprint success off a layoff before, winning a 5 1/2-furlong allowance at Fair Grounds in December 2007. Jones has given the mount to Terry Thompson.

Minewander has recency in her favor, having won an allowance in convincing fashion at Turfway Park in her last start Dec. 17. Larry Melancon was aboard for that race and has the return call for trainer David Vance.

Rated Fiesty will attempt to give her trainer, Steve Asmussen, his fifth win in the American Beauty. Superior Storm was a two-length winner of the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Classic last out at Fair Grounds for trainer Rick Jackson.