10/27/2006 12:00AM

Resilient filly takes on colts

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - After losing by an average of 13 lengths in her first three starts of the year and losing her rider as she left the starting gate in the fourth, it may be considered a miracle of sorts that Malibu Mint earned a starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. But trainer James Chapman doesn't believe it will take a miracle, only a little racing luck, for Malibu Mint to prove competitive against many of the fastest horses in the world on Breeders' Cup Day.

Since getting off to such a horrific start during the opening five months of the season, Malibu Mint has rebounded to win three of her last six starts, and two of her defeats during that span came by a neck. Her victories include a 3 3/4-length triumph in Calder's Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap, a race in which odds-on favorite Dubai Escapade suffered her only loss of the season. Malibu Mint also overcame a tough trip to capture Keeneland's Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes earlier this month to punch her ticket into the Sprint.

"The Breeders' Cup has been a target for a while," said Chapman, who trains Malibu Mint for owners Martha Jane and John Mulholland.

Chapman said the miracle that turned Malibu Mint's season around was a set of shoes he called a "Burns polygrip," which attaches to a horse's hoof without the use of nails. Chapman said they helped cure a chronic foot problem that plagued Malibu Mint at the beginning of the year.

"We kept one set of shoes on her for nine weeks, and it allowed us to finally get her foot under her," Chapman said. "Once her foot grew properly her form just continued to improve."

A 4-year-old stretch-runner, Malibu Mint is one of only two fillies pre-entered for the Sprint, along with Dubai Escapade. Malibu Mint has never finished worse than second in six starts at six furlongs, and Chapman said he is counting on a fast pace in the Sprint.

"There's a lot of speed in the race. It all fits nicely for her," said Chapman. "It also helps that the run-up from the starting gate to the six-furlong pole is a long one at Churchill Downs, so we will have a little extra distance to work with. If she does her part and just has average racing luck, I think she'll be a big factor."

Chapman said Kyle Kaenel, who has ridden Malibu Mint to victory in each of her last two starts, was slated to fly in Friday night and work her a half-mile over Keeneland's Polytrack on Saturday morning.