03/04/2004 12:00AM

Prep plans pan out for Ms Lady Palace


PORTLAND, Ore. - The Feb. 7 Ms. Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs was not just an opportunity to earn black type and the winner's share of a $10,000 purse; it was the only guaranteed prep for this Saturday's one-mile Mary Goldblatt Stakes for Oregon-breds.

Trainer Bob Weatherwax was taking quite a gamble, then, when he withheld Ms Lady Palace, who would have been one of the favorites in the Ms. Stakes, because the race was too close to her six-furlong allowance victory Jan. 26. Unless he could find another prep for Ms Lady Palace, she would be playing catch-up, not only in the Goldblatt, but in two subsequent route stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the meeting.

Luckily, a one-mile allowance race filled for Ms Lady Palace on Feb. 20, with a bare minimum of six horses. She took full advantage of the opportunity, leading throughout to win by 4 1/4 lengths under rider Monique Dionne.

"She got the rest she needed, and she got the prep she needed, too," said Weatherwax. "As it turned out, it was probably a better prep than the Ms., because it gave her a chance to go a mile for the first time. Things really worked out very well."

Things have been working out well for Weatherwax since he first saw Ms Lady Palace as a yearling at the 2002 OTBA Sale. He bid Ms Lady Palace up to $1,900, but when that amount turned out to be shy of her reserve, she was returned to breeder Dave Benson.

"I was pretty disappointed, but then somebody told me the reserve was only $2,000," Weatherwax said. "I went to the barn and offered Dave Benson another $100, and he took it. I could hardly wait to give him the $2,000."

An Oregon-bred daughter of He's Tops and the Just the Time matron Shivers Severe, Ms Lady Palace proved herself to be a bargain in her first two starts at Emerald Downs, finishing fourth and then third after leading in maiden special weight company. She suffered an entrapped epiglottis in her third start, however, and had to undergo throat surgery.

"You never know how those things will turn out, but the surgery was pretty much a success," said Weatherwax. "She came back just a month later and broke her maiden here."

Ms Lady Palace then finished second to divisional leader Quiz the Maid in the six-furlong Lassie before running a disappointing fifth in the six-furlong Jane Driggers Debutante on Oregon-bred Day, Dec. 13.

"We learned something about her on Oregon-bred Day," said Weatherwax. "The rider took a big hold on her and bent her neck, and that shut off her air. Since then we've asked the riders to give her a long rein and let her do whatever she wants."

What Ms Lady Palace usually wants is to go to the front, and Weatherwax expects her to do that in the Goldblatt.

"I don't think it really matters as long as she relaxes, but she has a lot of natural speed, and she usually ends up in front if you don't restrain her," said Weatherwax. "The key is for her to relax and breathe normally. If she does that, I think she'll run all day."

Kya Jo well enough to try first mile race

Ms Lady Palace figures to get her stiffest opposition from OTBA Sales Stakes winner Kya Jo, who finished second to the Washington-bred Quiz the Maid in the Ms. Stakes. A daughter of Abstract and Hot Zee by Table Run, Kya Jo will be trying a mile for the first time, and she will be doing so after a bout of illness.

"She got the virus that has been going around, but she did make a quick recovery," said trainer Jonathan Nance. "I've been able to get two works into her, and she went really well in both of them. I think she'll be okay."

Were it not for the illness, Nance said he would feel confident about Kya Jo's chances at a mile.

"I've always felt she would be a much better filly going long," he said. "I just hope she is fit enough to prove me right."

So Happy Together's line may ring a bell

The newcomer in the Goldblatt field is So Happy Together, a winner at the $28,000 maiden level at Santa Anita who arrived at local trainer Nick Lowe's barn in time to work a half-mile in 51.60 on Feb. 22.

While So Happy Together will be making her first appearance at Portland Meadows, her pedigree is familiar to local fans. By Corslew out of Onry Won, So Happy Together is a half-sister to Slews Onry Won, whose six local stakes victories include wins in the Oregon Futurity of 1998, the Oregon Derby of 1999, and the William Kyne Stakes of 2000.