07/04/2007 11:00PM

Selvatica, Shaggy Mane top shippers in Rooney


MIAMI - A year ago, the presence of the seemingly unbeatable Dubai Escapade limited the lineup to only seven starters for Calder's first and only Grade 1 event, the $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap. She finished sixth as the odds-on favorite behind longshot Malibu Mint.

This year, with no standouts in the picture, an extremely competitive field of 13 fillies and mares will line up for the six-furlong Princess Rooney. This group is so evenly matched on paper that only two pounds separate the top six horses in racing secretary Mike Anifantis's assessment of the race.

The lineup for the Princess Rooney has a decidedly West Coast flavor, led by speedballs Selvatica and Shaggy Mane. The other California-based members of the field are Nossa Cancao, Maryfield, and River's Prayer. Indian Flare began her campaign in Southern California before shipping east to win Belmont's Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap June 17.

Selvatica will carry high weight of 119 pounds. The 6-year-old daughter of Forestry has won 6 of her last 8 starts, dating back to August 2005. Most of those victories have come on the lead, including a two-length triumph in Hollywood Park's Desert Stormer Handicap on May 19.

Shaggy Mane may be even faster than Selvatica and has not been defeated or even challenged in her last six starts at six furlongs. A

4-year-old daughter of Bertrando, Shaggy Mane is coming off one of her rare losses during the past 12 months, a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Humana Distaff Handicap on May 5 at Churchill Downs.

"I thought her race in Kentucky was really impressive considering she popped an abscess the morning of the race," trainer Don Chatlos Jr. said. "She was still in front of Hystericalady after six furlongs and two lengths in front of Pussycat Doll after 6 1/2, and she really showed me some guts that day to hold on as well as she did. But this is her distance, and she couldn't be doing any better coming into the race."

Chatlos also is making no secret as to the strategy of he and jockey Cornelio Velasquez for the Princess Rooney.

"I don't want to single one horse out, but Selvatica is the one who can hurt us the first half-mile, and I've already told Cornelio that's the one horse we have to bury early, even if he has to go 43 and change to do it."

A torrid pace duel could play right into the hands of Indian Flare or Miraculous Miss. Trained by Steve Klesaris, Miraculous Miss is making her 2007 debut in the Princess Rooney. A stretch runner, she has not started since finishing third in Laurel's seven-furlong Stefanita Stakes on Nov. 25.

"I'm not concerned about the layoff - he runs well when she's fresh and sharp," Klesaris said. "My biggest concerns are running over the Calder surface for the first time, and the weather. Her worst race to date came over a sloppy track at Gulfstream Park. She'll see them all early, but she's doing well and it looks like she should get a good pace setup."

Indian Flare should sit right behind the early leaders, a modus operandi she used to register a half-length decision over Oprah Winney in the Vagrancy. G City Gal, who finished second via disqualification here last summer in the Azalea, and River's Prayer also figure close early.

Maryfield proved she could win from well off the lead when she captured Aqueduct's Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap in March, although she was a tiring eighth in the Humana.