08/02/2006 11:00PM

Shipper brings big fig to Gardenia


HENDERSON, Ky. - The Gardenia Handicap, the signature race at Ellis Park, historically has been locally concentrated, with the occasional outsider crashing the party. A California mare, Dream of Summer, dominated the Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap last year as the favorite, and on Saturday it will be a Florida invader, Prospective Saint, who will be the highweight and probable favorite in the Gardenia.

This is just the second time in the 26 runnings of the $150,000 Gardenia that the race will be run at a mile, having traditionally been run at 1 1/8 miles. While Dream of Summer fit the profile of a miler, trainer Marty Wolfson said the speed and versatility of Prospective Saint precludes any such typecasting.

"I actually was considering her for the Arlington Oaks at a mile and an eighth, but I've got Mochita for that race," said Wolfson. "That's fine. The mile should be about right for this mare. She's not speed-crazy, and she's really learned how to relax."

most recently earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure finishing second in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney at Calder. Laying just off the pace in that six-furlong race, she was among the gang that charged past heavily favored Dubai Escapade in midstretch before she settled for second behind the longshot winner, Malibu Mint.

"That was a good race for her," said Wolfson. "She's shown us before that she can stretch out. She won the Shocker T. [last October at Calder] doing the same thing."

Prospective Saint arrived at Ellis Park on Wednesday following a flight from south Florida. She will be saddled Saturday by Kristin Crawford, the local assistant to trainer Scott Blasi.

Besides Prospective Saint, who carries 119 pounds with Eddie Castro, the Gardenia field also includes such capable fillies and mares as , an eight-time winner with a pattern of consistency; and Character Builder, third in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis in her last start.

The Gardenia, the highlight of the Big Four Stakes program, is carded as the 10th of 11 races and is the final leg of an all-stakes pick four. Ellis normally offers a pick four on the last four races each day but has shifted it to encompass the Fisher Debutante, Ellis Juvenile, Regaey Island, and Gardenia (races 7-10).

Post time for the Gardenia is 4:57 p.m. Central. First post is 12:40.