01/21/2010 12:00AM

Shippers back fast in Nellie Morse


New York shippers Weathered and Starship Angel, coming off victories that earned identical Beyer Speed Figures, wheel back on relatively short rest for Saturday's $70,000 Nellie Morse Stakes at Laurel Park.

The one-mile Nellie Morse serves as a prep for the Grade 2, $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap, a seven-furlong stakes for fillies and mares on Feb. 13.

The 5-year-old Weathered dominated a minor stakes restricted to New York-breds on Jan. 14, earning an 87 Beyer. The 4-year-old Starship Angel recorded the same figure for her last-to-first score in a second-level optional $50,000 claimer on Jan. 8.

Although they seem evenly matched, they come from highly different backgrounds.

Weathered is an 11-time winner in 24 starts. Her six stakes victories include the Grade 3 Next Move last March. Although she is 2 for 2 at Laurel, both races came early in her career. Weathered's first start came at Laurel against $35,000 maiden claimers in December 2007, and she won a second-level allowance in March 2008 there, both at seven furlongs.

Starship Angel's maiden victory came in her fifth start, an off-the-turf route at Belmont Park last May. She will be making her stakes debut after winning back-to-back races by a combined 10 1/2 lengths.

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Starship Angel will be coming back 15 days after she spotted the field 11 lengths when she broke in the air but still managed to draw clear in the stretch of a one-mile route on Aqueduct's inner track. McLaughlin is just 2 for his last 22 with route horses returning in 15 days or less, according to DRF's Formulator.

In contrast, trainer Karl Grusmark's record with fillies and mares returning quickly bodes well for Weathered's chances. He shows a 9-for-25 record (36 percent) with an outstanding $5.48 return on investment with female route runners back in 10 days or less. That ROI is inflated by the victory at 38-1 posted by Yet Again in December 2008.

If Weathered and Starship Angel are unable to fire their best shots on short rest, the most likely contender to emerge from the rest of the pack is Penn National-based mare Northern Station. In her first visit to Laurel on Jan. 8, Northern Station made up an early 11-length deficit to draw off by four lengths in a third-level optional claimer.