03/07/2002 12:00AM

'Pickums' faces 11 in stakes


Usually when a graded stakes winner competes in a $50,000 stakes race, the opposition runs scared. Yet when Miss Pickums, a Grade 2 winner who has earned more than $303,000, returns Saturday at Turfway Park in the $50,000 Wintergreen Stakes, the opposition will simply be running.

Eleven opponents have been entered to face Miss Pickums, who as a 2-year-old in 2000 won the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. The depth of the opposition Saturday - which includes south Florida invader Irish Fantasy - is surprising in light of the past accomplishments of Miss Pickums and her recent form.

Following a six-racing losing streak, Miss Pickums looked like her old self in the Likely Exchange at Turfway last month. Facing possible retirement with another poor race, she summoned her back class and soundly defeated favored Seven Four Seven by 3 3/4 lengths.

That day she produced a strong run from just off the pace and won with authority under Charlie Woods Jr., who will be back aboard the filly in the one-mile Wintergreen.

Miss Pickums, a 4-year-old daughter of Afternoon Deelites trained by Paul McGee and owned by Jan, Mace, and Samantha Siegel, has raced well over the Turfway strip. Besides winning the Likely Exchange, she was an upset winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2000 there.

Her chief adversary figures to be Irish Fantasy, who returns to Kentucky after a productive winter campaign at Gulfstream Park for trainer Dale Romans. This winter she won a six-furlong allowance by two lengths, then returned with a close fifth-place finish behind Cat Cay and Raging Fever in the Grade 3 Shirley Jones Handicap Feb. 15.

Although Miss Pickums holds the edge in stakes accomplishments, Irish Fantasy has run faster, but in shorter races. Her last two efforts resulted in Beyer Speed Figures of 94 and 96. Those figures give her a clear advantage over the opposition, even over Miss Pickums, whose highest Beyer Figure is a 90.

The issue with Irish Fantasy is distance. Her best races have come at seven furlongs or shorter, and she was second at 3-10 odds when she last raced a mile. Brian Peck rides.

Of the 10 other runners - the bulk of whom are locally based - Seven Four Seven appears to have the best chance. In late January she won a third-level allowance at Turfway by six lengths, while Miss Pickums finished well-beaten fourth. Greta Kuntzweiler rides.

The Wintergreen goes as race 10 on a deep 12-race card that features seven races filled with 10 or more entrants.