03/22/2007 12:00AM

Shipper to test Magnolia Jackson

Email

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Gary Contessa didn't think twice when fellow trainer Greg Gilchrist called recently to inquire about an open stall for a horse Gilchrist wanted to ship in from Northern California. Two years ago, Contessa opened up his barn for Gilchrist when he sent Lost in the Fog to New York for graded events.

Contessa may regret being so hospitable this time as the Gilchrist-trained Victorina looks to be the main threat to Contessa's Magnolia Jackson in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct.

Victorina is one of three California shippers here for the Distaff, a race in which Magnolia Jackson was beaten a neck by Smokey Glacken last year. This year, Magnolia Jackson is the 120-pound highweight against six opponents in the six-furlong race.

Contessa said he's happy with the way Magnolia Jackson is coming up to this race. The New York-bred Magnolia Jackson has won 10 of 16 starts and is 5 for 7 over Aqueduct's inner track, including a win in the Correction Handicap on Feb. 11.

"I'm happy that I have a nice, fresh Magnolia Jackson for this race no matter what happens," Contessa said. "She's ready to run. Last year's Distaff might have been an easier race, but then again we still have a home-field advantage. We still got a good filly, and if I get beat I get beat."

Though Magnolia Jackson has won 3 of her last 4 starts on the front end, Contessa maintains she is better with a target. Contessa said she's raced on the front end this winter to take advantage of the speed-favoring inner track.

There appears to be a lot of speed in Saturday's Distaff, which should set things up nicely for Victorina, who breaks from post 5 under Russell Baze. Victorina, a 4-year-old daughter of Delaware Township, has won 7 of 12 starts, including the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup Handicap at Calder.

"The thing with her is I'm not sure really how good she is, but I do know this - I've not ever seen her go over there and not put forth a really good effort," Gilchrist said. "The filly is doing well, and if you're going to get a true test to find out what you got, this is a good time to take a shot with her."

Oprah Winney comes off front-running wins in the Interborough and Barbara Fritchie handicaps. Hello Lucky ships in from Southern California off an upset in the Grade 3 Las Flores. May Day Vow, Maryfield, and Candy Box complete the field.