05/28/2009 12:00AM

Rain may derail an exciting matchup

Michael Burns
Marina Ballerina, trained by Kirk Ziadie, exits a second-place finish in a Keeneland stakes.

MIAMI - Turf racing has all but vanished around these parts the past two weeks, and with more rain in the forecast, the prospect of Saturday's $55,000 Cool Air Stakes going off as scheduled on the grass seems bleak at best. A change in venue could end up spoiling a potentially intriguing matchup between Marina Ballerina and two-time defending Cool Air champion Charlie Papa.

Marina Ballerina is no stranger to south Floridians. A daughter of Outflanker, she launched her career finishing second over the Gulfstream Park turf course during the spring of 2007 and won a third-level allowance race over Calder's main track late that year. Marina Ballerina also finished a tiring fifth this past winter in Gulfstream's Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint.

Marina Ballerina has passed through several barns during her career and is presently under the tutelage of trainer Kirk Ziadie. She returns to Calder off a second-place finish behind Diamondrella in Keeneland's Giant's Causeway Stakes on the turf, and with 4 of her 6 career victories coming on dirt, figures to be the favorite whether the Cool Air is decided on turf or over the main track.

Charlie Papa continues to hold her form well at the age of 8 for trainer Connie Kendall, who has nursed the former claimer through a series of injuries over the past several years. Charlie Papa led throughout to post a two-length decision in the 2007 Cool Air but had to work a little harder on the lead before successfully defending her title a year ago.

Charlie Papa has made just three starts since winning the 2008 Cool Air, capturing an allowance race over the Tampa Bay Downs infield course in her last appearance on April 1. Although she has registered half of her dozen lifetime victories on dirt, Charlie Papa has raced exclusively on turf since January of 2005 and is the more likely of the two favorites to pass the Cool Air should the overnight stakes be switched to the main track.

Sebastian Madrid, who guided Charlie Papa to victory in each of the last two renewals of the Cool Air, will partner up with her once again on Saturday.

Bereba, Fly Express, Rate of Exchange, and Thebandisloose, who would be a major beneficiary should the Cool Air come off the grass, are among the other key contenders.

You Luckie Mann worked four furlongs in a bullet 48.20 seconds here Thursday. You Luckie Mann has not started since finishing second as the 6-5 favorite behind This One's for Phil in the Sunshine Millions Dash on Jan. 24.