01/17/2002 1:00AM

Quick filly tough in first stakes


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - The stakes season at Suffolk Downs begins Saturday when 13 fillies and mares meet in the $30,000 Floyd Duncan Stakes.

The six-furlong race appears to be wide open, but Rippling Return, who makes her stakes debut for trainer Ned Allard, should be the betting choice.

Rippling Return hasn't been out since November, when she wrapped up her 3-year-old season with the second of two consecutive romps at Philadelphia Park. She used her speed well in both races, and the Duncan, which honors the memory of one of New England's all-time leading trainers, is a good spot for the same tactic.

Rippling Return won 5 of 12 starts last year. She has worked steadily, though slowly, for her first start as a 4-year-old. She will be ridden by Josiah Hampshire Jr. at 121 pounds.

Icy Flirt, Mario Lacava's steady 5-year-old mare, defeated many of the local Duncan hopefuls when she won an allowance here two weeks ago, her third win in as many starts at Suffolk. Trained by Lori Lockhart, Icy Flirt has racked up seven wins in her last nine starts, beginning with a $12,500 claimer at Monmouth in June.

Icy Flirt has won coming from off the pace or making the pace, but with her inside post, she might be called on early by Jerry Parenti Jr., who has the mount at 123 pounds.

Big Miss is another locally based entrant with a big chance. The 6-year-old Big Miss won her last three starts of 2001 against the top allowance and stakes fillies and mares on the grounds, but all three wins came around two turns. Trained by Ernie Lowe Jr., Big Miss has limited results at six furlongs but she is coming back from a freshening and her works underline her sharpness.

Del Carroll will send in Above the Harbor for the Duncan. The 4-year-old Above the Harbor tailed off in her last three starts of 2001, against high-priced claimers at Aqueduct. But she did win a maiden claiming race at Suffolk two years ago. She had two wins last year and has the ability to come from off the pace. Taylor Hole has the call at 119.

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