12/02/2004 1:00AM

Search for black type begins

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When Private Opinion starts as one of the main contenders Saturday in the Holiday Inaugural at Turfway Park, she will be running for a $50,000 purse.

But the stakes are actually much higher. Private Opinion is by the top-class sire Deputy Minister and the first foal of Vantive, a Mr. Prospector mare whose family is loaded with good horses.

"She's bred incredibly well, so we really would love to get her some black type Saturday," said Pat Byrne, who trains Private Opinion for the estate of the late Robert Sangster.

It seems highly possible that will get her black type in the six-furlong Holiday Inaugural, the first of four $50,000 stakes at the holiday meet, which runs through Dec. 31 at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. In three starts, Private Opinion, as Byrne pointed out, "is a head away from being unbeaten."

After a runaway maiden win at Ellis Park in August, Private Opinion was beaten a head in an Oct. 9 allowance at Keeneland. In her lone subsequent start, she won an allowance at Churchill Downs, despite getting off to a slow start.

"I don't know what she beat that day, but I do know that this is a nice filly with a lot of quickness," said Byrne, who next weekend will head to Florida, where he will divide his stable between Gulfstream Park and the Ocala Breeders' Sales training facility.

Private Opinion, with Joe Johnson to ride, figures to be about the third or fourth choice in a relatively tough race. The likely favorite is Class Above, whose two previous attempts at Turfway resulted in sensational victories: a 16-length romp in the 2003 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, and a 3 3/4-length win in the Bourbonette Stakes last spring.

Class Above, owned by Padua Stables, is now trained by Steve Asmussen. Her Turfway wins came for Bob Baffert.

The other fillies likely to take heavy action are Golden Marlin, a consistent and hard-trying 4-year-old trained by Greg Foley, and the Canadian invader Huntingthetruth, a winner of 6 of 9 starts this year.

The Holiday Inaugural, first run in 1986, was won last year by Halory Leigh, the filly who last month swept the Churchill Downs Distaff and Falls City Handicap at Churchill. The Holiday Inaugural is the 10th of 12 races on a program that starts at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.