07/03/2002 11:00PM

Rosthern in with big kids

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Josie Carroll knows Rosthern isn't going to have an easy time of it here in Saturday's Dance Smartly.

"I think it's a really, really tough race," said Carroll. "Obviously if Dancethruthedawn likes the turf, she's a very classy filly, same as Sweetest Thing. They've been competing with some of the best."

But Carroll also knows that Rosthern, a 4-year-old daughter of Broad Brush she trains for Jim and Alice Sapara, has never been better, and there's certainly no point in keeping her in the barn.

"I think this filly has improved tremendously this year," said Carroll.

"I think she's just matured a lot. A lot of these Broad Brushes - and I've had a few of them - mature late. She's a great big filly, and she's kind of grown into herself.

"Whether she's up to this level of competition, this is the only way we're going to find out."

Rosthern, a Maryland-bred, finished out of the money in two starts as a 2-year-old and did not win her maiden until the fourth outing of her 3-year-old campaign, which came over 1 1/16 miles on the main track here.

She then went through another five-race winless streak before passing through her nonwinners-of-two condition at Fair Grounds, scoring over about 7 1/2 furlongs of turf.

But that was the beginning of an upward spiral for Rosthern, who has won three times and finished second twice in five subsequent outings.

In her last start, making her stakes debut here in the Nassau over 1 1/16 miles of turf, Rosthern set the pace under leading rider Patrick Husbands and repelled a strong challenge from Mountain Angel, Canada's reigning champion older filly-mare.

But Rosthern could not contain the rally of invader Siringas, and she fell short by one length, with Mountain Angel, who is among her opponents again Saturday, a neck back in third.

"Before I entered her in her last race race, I probably would have said no to a mile and an eighth," said Carroll, explaining that Rosthern had earned her way into the Dance Smartly with her Nassau effort. "I thought she ran a really gutsy race; she really came back on.

"She really surprised me; she showed a lot of gameness."

And while Carroll is concerned about the prospect of Rosthern getting caught up in another front-end battle with Mountain Angel, she is philosophical about the prospect.

"She has to be close early; you can't change it," said the trainer. "I think Patrick's a pretty heady rider; he's going to have to use his judgment."

Meet Rhiannon's Wish

Carroll also will be represented in Sunday's feature with Rhiannon's Wish, who is set to make her career debut in the Shady Well, a 5 1/2-furlong race for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Rhiannon's Wish, who was purchased for $80,000 at the local select yearling sale, is owned by Bill Schettine.

"She's been training forwardly," said Carroll. "I had hoped to run her earlier, but she's just come around now. I don't think we're out of line here, taking a shot."

Carroll also had had designs on the Shady Well with Wawota, a Winsong Farm homebred.

"I had her ready, and wanted to run in there," said Carroll, "but she's just getting over a virus."

Carroll already trains a mare who won the Shady Well in her career debut.

Ruby Park, owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, was trained by Todd Pletcher when she took the 1999 running.

Now 5 years old, Ruby Park is coming off a second-place finish in the six-furlong Ballade here June 12 and is pointing for Fort Erie's $125,000 Rainbow Connection, a five-furlong turf race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares July 16.

"The Rainbow Connection looks like a nice spot," said Carroll. "It's good money; I don't know about the turf, though."

Ruby Park has finished out of the money in two turf starts but both came in stakes races here over one mile, a distance that Carroll says is beyond Ruby Park's best.

Her opponents in the Rainbow Connection should include Woodbine-based Sports Flashy, who won the race last year for trainer Earl Barnett and Bradscot Farm.

Meanwhile, the Melynks and Pletcher again will have a first-time starter in the Shady Well, with Appleby Gardens scheduled to ship up from her Belmont base.

Appleby Gardens, by A.P. Indy out of the Canadian champion Larkwhistle, was a $2 million purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August yearling sale.

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