01/24/2008 12:00AM

Rated Fiesty returns in Dixie Belle


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Rated Fiesty's raw talent will go up against Kadira's recency Saturday in the $50,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn Park. The multiple stakes winners will start as the top choices in the six-furlong race that also drew the promising Maren's Meadow.

Rated Fiesty, who will be making her first start since July, was one of the quickest 2-year-olds in North America last year. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102 in May, when she defeated colts by 4 1/2 lengths in the Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs. Among those in her wake were Ready's Image, who returned to win two stakes in his next two starts, including the Grade 2 Sanford.

As for Rated Fiesty, she backed up her Kentucky BC with another Churchill stakes score, this time taking the Grade 3 Debutante on July 7. Favored for the first time in her career, the undefeated filly set fractions of 21.40 seconds for the opening quarter and 45 seconds for the half-mile before covering six furlongs in 1:09.27.

"She's not real assuming, she's just really fast," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Rated Fiesty for Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and JMJ Racing Stable. "She broke her maiden easy at Keeneland, beat the boys, then went in the Debutante and ran fast again."

Rated Fiesty has been working at Fair Grounds. She will break from post 2 under Luis Quinonez.

Kadira was an eight-length winner of the $50,000 Gowell at Turfway Park in her last start, on Dec. 22. She covered six furlongs in 1:09.60 to earn a 92 Beyer, which is the highest last-race number in Saturday's field.

"Her last race was just awesome," said Trisha Vance, assistant trainer to David Vance. "Everybody was impressed. She did it very easy, in a fast time."

Kadira drew the far outside in the field of nine, a post that could give options to her rider, Larry Melancon. The filly wired the field from the rail in the Gowell, but raced just off the leaders when she won the $100,000 Bassinet at River Downs in September.

"She can run on the lead, or she can lay right off the lead, either way," Vance said.

Maren's Meadow was a Fair Grounds allowance winner in her last start, on Dec. 31, and can take advantage if a duel develops between Rated Fiesty and Kadira.

"She can just stalk the early going," trainer Larry Jones said.

Terry Thompson has the mount on Maren's Meadow, who earlier this year was fourth in the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont.