07/07/2007 12:00AM

River's Prayer outduels Shaggy Mane


MIAMI - Turf or dirt, it apparently doesn't matter these days to River's Prayer.

After registering her last four victories on grass, River's Prayer returned to the main track to post a half-length decision over 2-1 favorite Shaggy Mane in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder.

River's Prayer, whose last start on dirt resulted in a ninth-place finish in Santa Anita's Grade 1 La Brea Stakes in her 3-year-finale last December, came into the six-furlong Princess Rooney perfect in three starts in 2007, with each of those victories coming in West Coast turf stakes. But River's Prayer had little trouble negotiating Calder's main track, which had been upgraded from sloppy to good one race earlier.

River's Prayer ($24.80) broke alertly to get the early jump on the speedy Shaggy Mane, disputing the pace just outside that rival under a rating hold from jockey Clinton Potts. The pair raced as a team into the stretch, with River's Prayer gaining a short lead while drifting a bit wide off the turn. She maintained a narrow advantage over Shaggy Mane, who held on with determination after relinquishing the lead.

G City Gal moved to within easy striking distance of the top pair turning for home, but offered only a mild closing response, finishing another half-length behind Shaggy Mane in third.

The win was the eighth in 15 starts for River's Prayer whose most important previous victories came in the Grade 3 Las Cienagas Handicap in April and the California Cup Distaff Handicap during the fall of her 3-year-old campaign. Both those wins were over the turf course at Santa Anita.

River's Prayer ran six furlongs in 1:10.66. She completed an all-stakes pick five that returned $84,444.40 for a $2 ticket.

"This filly likes to be right up on it early in the race, but today she let me settle her down the backside," said Potts, who also won Carry Back Stakes aboard Black Seventeen. "She seemed to drift a bit around the turn but when we straightened up in the stretch she just turned it on."

Azalea: Sheets beats the favorite

Sheets, in the best form of her career, registered her most important victory when rallying to a 4 1/4-length victory over 9-5 favorite Sindy With an S in the Grade 3, $300,000 Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Sheets ($15.20), who had won a second-level allowance at Churchill Downs in her previous start, stalked the early pace of Cher Ami and Sindy With an S while racing just outside the leaders under Aaron Gryder. Sheets edged to command leaving the turn and gradually increased her advantage. Sindy With an S was easily second, finishing two lengths in front of a tiring Holly Torque Tango.

Sheets, a 3-year-old daughter of Scatmandu, is trained by T.V. Smith for owner Robert E. Masterson. Smith said he figured Sheets would take to the sloppy track if she took after her dam, One Hot Minute.

"I trained her mother and she was a superior mudder," Smith said. "You know the first time she ran she beat Rags to Riches. We probably couldn't beat her today, but my filly has had some bad luck in a lot of her races and her record should be better than it was coming into this race."

Smith said Sheets may make her next start in the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 4.

Carry Back: Black Seventeen too fast

Black Seventeen proved his abundant speed can be just as effective on conventional dirt as it has been over the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park, leading throughout to beat 7-5 co-choice Teuflesberg by one length in the Grade 2, $300,000 Carry Back Stakes.

Black Seventeen ($4.80), whose last two victories had come at Hollywood, bobbled briefly at the break then rushed to command and led every step under regular rider Clinton Potts. Teuflesberg put in a determined bid and finished second. Yesbyjimminy raced within easy striking distance but could not keep up with the top pair and finished third.

Black Seventeen, a 3-year-old son of Is It True, is owned by the Wind River River Stables, Brian Koriner and Janet Lyons, and trained by Koriner. His final time for six furlongs was 1:09.84 over a good track.

"I knew Teuflesberg wasn't going to go away, so my horse really had to gut it out all the way," said Koriner. "He showed his gameness. Short term we're looking at the King's Bishop."

The Grade 1 King's Bishop will be run at Saratoga on Aug. 25.

Criterium: Big City Man impressive

Big City Man registered his second straight impressive victory when drawing off to an easy 4 1/2-length triumph over 60-1 outsider Surrealdeal in the $100,000 Criterium Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings.

Big City Man ($9), a son of Northern Afleet, won his maiden by nearly 11 lengths in his previous start and had little trouble making the jump to stakes company for trainer Jose Pinchin and jockey Elvis Trujillo. Well placed just off the early pace of Young Joe and Casino Gambler, Big City Man moved readily to command entering the stretch, then steadily increased his advantage while kept under urging to the end.

Surrealdeal, a well-beaten fifth against maiden special weight competition in his only previous start, rallied from the rear of the pack down the middle of the track to finish second, two lengths clear of Honey Honey Honey, part of an even-money entry along with stablemate Casino Gambler. The well-regarded Brother Joey was never a factor, finishing seventh.

Big City Man covered six furlongs in 1:12.14 over the sloppy track.

J J'sdream: Yonagucci wins with style

Yonagucci stepped up off an easy maiden win to capture the $100,000 J J'sdream Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, pulling away to a 2 3/4-length victory over longshot Britten's Beauty.

Yonagucci ($4.40), a cleverly named daughter of Yonaguska and Designer Label, slipped inside the pacesetting Bella Carina to wrest control approaching the stretch, then edged clear under jockey Jeffrey Sanchez.

Britten's Beauty prompted the pace outside horses into the stretch and outgamed Arealhotlover by a neck to be second.

Yonagucci is trained by Manuel Azpurua, who sent out Nightmare Affair to upset last year's Smile Sprint Handicap on the Summit of Speed Day.

Yonagucci ran six furlongs in 1:13.02.

Distaff Turf: Smitty's Sunshine on dirt

Any concerns trainer Morris Nicks might have had when heavy rains forced the afternoon's two scheduled turf races off the grass were for naught after his Smitty's Sunshine posted her sixth consecutive victory, a game head decision over Flying Circle in the $100,000 Distaff Turf Sprint Handicap.

Smitty's Sunshine ($4.80), who came into the Distaff Turf winless in three starts on dirt, won an early pace duel with Unbridled Sidney, drew well clear in early stretch, then withstood a stiff challenge from Flying Circle through the final furlong to remain undefeated since August 2006. Shesgoldincolor rallied to finish third.

Robby Albarado, who had been aboard Smitty's Sunshine for each of her four previous wins, rode the 4-year-old daughter of Seeking a Home, who negotiated five furlongs in 58.54 seconds.

Turf Sprint: D'artagnans'spirit in slop

D'artagnans'spirit ($8.40) benefitted from the surface change from grass to a sloppy main track, rallying along the rail to upset 5-2 favorite Lord Robyn by 1 3/4 lengths in the $100,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint Handicap.

D'artagnans'spirit, a son of Secret Hello, received a ground-saving trip under jockey Jose Lezcano, slipping through along the rail to run down the tiring Lord Robyn in late stretch. Bow Out finished three lengths farther back in third.

D'artagnans'spirit, who finished off the board in his only two previous tries on turf, is trained by Kirk Ziadie for owners Richard Averill and Stephen White. Final time for five furlongs was 57.87.