11/15/2001 1:00AM

Quick filly cuts back in stakes


Xtra Heat isn't the only fast 3-year-old filly racing at Laurel Park on Saturday. Celtic Melody, a Mr. Greely filly who looks like a rising star, tries for her first stakes win in the $75,000 Stefanita, one of five stakes on the De Francis Dash undercard.

Also to be run Saturday are the $75,000 Thirty Eight Go Go, the $50,000 Hail Emperor, and two $60,000 stakes for Maryland-bred 2-year-olds: the Heavenly Cause and the Rollicking.

In the Stefanita, at seven furlongs, Celtic Melody has seven filly and mare opponents.

Celtic Melody was favored in last November's Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Tempted there. But Celtic Melody ran sixth in the Demoiselle and didn't race again for more than eight months.

She romped by 7 1/4 lengths in a Saratoga allowance sprint in her return last summer, and then won another allowance sprint there by 6 1/4 lengths.

Last out, in her third race back from the layoff, Celtic Melody ran third behind Mystic Lady and Zonk in the Grade 2 Cotillion at Philadelphia Park. That race was at 1 1/16 miles, and the shorter distance of the Stefanita should work in Celtic Melody's favor.

Celtic Melody is trained by James Jerkens, who did not name a rider.

In the Hail Emperor, for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles, P Day returns to his favorite surface after finishing fourth in the Find Handicap on the Laurel turf.

In his last main-track race, the Maryland Million Classic at Pimlico in October, P Day finished third after being blocked behind horses in the stretch.

Grundlefoot, coming off a victory in the Kelso at Delaware Park, looks like P Day's main rival in the Hail Emperor.

The Thirty Eight Go Go, at 1 1/8 miles, lacks a standout among the eight fillies and mares in the field. Steppedoutofadream, third last out in the $100,000 Prismatical at The Meadowlands, may get an easy lead from post 2. Chasing her will be Brig, winner of the Moonlight Jig at Pimlico two starts ago, and Proud Owner, an earner of more than $500,000.