06/27/2001 11:00PM

Penny Memorial draws strong field of shippers


A pair of proven graded stakes performers from New York barns and a sharp, well-traveled filly are the prime contenders in Saturday's $100,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

It's possible to make a strong case for Tippity Witch, Iftiraas, and Impending Bear in the Penny, a 1 1/16-mile turf race which drew a full field of 12 older fillies and mares.

Tippity Witch, a Grade 3 winner in Maryland last fall for New York trainer Jimmy Jerkens, is winless in five starts this season. But in her last start, Tippity Witch finished strongly to get within 2 1/4 lengths of License Fee in the Grade 3 Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park, earning a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure.

Iftiraas, an English-bred 4-year-old, has yet to race in New York, where trainer Bill Mott runs most of his stable. Instead, Mott has found more suitable spots for her in the Midwest, where she won the Grade 3 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs and finished third after setting most of the pace over soft turf in the WinStar Distaff at Lone Star Park. The Penny will be the first time in two years that Iftiraas has been asked to go beyond a mile.

Impending Bear, who will be racing at her fifth different track in as many starts for trainer Michael Stidham, lost to Iftiraas when they met two starts ago in Kentucky. But Impending Bear had an excuse that day as she was bumped around at the start and endured a wide trip. Most recently, Impending Bear romped in a one-mile optional claimer at Hawthorne. Her rider in that race, apprentice Zoe Cadman, who led the rider standings at the Hawthorne meet, is making the trip from Chicago for this stakes.