03/06/2008 12:00AM

Saki to Me bids to stay unbeaten

Email

Saki to Me, unbeaten in three starts last year as a 2-year-old but unraced since October, puts her perfect record on the line in Saturday's $70,000 Wide Country Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Laurel Park.

Although this is the 15th running of the stakes, named in honor of Maryland's horse of the year in 1991, this will be the first time it has been contested at seven furlongs. It was previously run at four distances ranging from 7 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles.

Although she is based at the Bowie training center with trainer Eddie Gaudet, this will be Saki to Me's first start in Maryland. All three of her previous races came at Delaware Park, capped by a 1 3/4-length score going 1 1/16 miles in the Blue Hen Stakes on Oct. 27.

Gaudet has had good success with filly and mare sprinters returning from layoffs of 61 to 180 days, winning with 3 of his last 11 starters in that category.

New York shipper Armonk and the fillies who finished two-three-four in last month's six-furlong Marshua should provide the stiffest challenge for Saki to Me.

Armonk's bid for her third straight win was foiled when she fell a neck short of Ready for Fortune in the six-furlong Dearly Precious over Aqueduct's inner track three weeks ago. She earned a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 83 in that race. Although Armonk is in sharp form, her trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, is only 1 for 11 with female sprinters returning in less than 30 days off a career-best Beyer Speed Figure.

Kosmo's Buddy, second at 19-1 after setting the pace in the Marshua, and the two fillies who ran right behind her that day, Hartigan and Verdana Bold, also come off career tops.

Of that trio, the one with the most upside might be Verdana Bold. Her trainer, Rodney Jenkins, is 9 for 23 (39 percent) with fillies or mares returning in less than 30 days in a sprint following a career-best Beyer.

Hartigan, who won the restricted Gin Talking on turf last fall and was second in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship in late December, endured a troubled trip in the Marshua. There appears to be sufficient early speed to set up her closing kick. On the down side, trainer Richard Small is 0 for his last 10 with female sprinters making their second start off a layoff, which is the situation with Hartigan.

Kosmo's Buddy, a pure front-runner, will likely face pressure from Armonk and My Dance Partner, a wire-to-wire winner of her two most recent starts, both against softer company.