04/27/2006 11:00PM

Shippers take aim at Vontay


One shipper from New York and another from Florida will challenge the unbeaten Maryland-based filly Vontay in Sunday's $60,000 Xtra Heat Stakes at Pimlico.

The five-furlong race drew a field of seven 3-year-old fillies.

Although Vontay is officially 2 for 2 in her brief career, she needed the assistance of the stewards to score her second victory. She finished a half-length behind Hatties Gingersnap as the 8-5 favorite in a first-level allowance sprint two weeks ago at Laurel Park, but was elevated to first when Hatties Gingersnap was disqualified.

Vontay will need to improve upon her first effort against winners to fend off Ring True, who already owns a stakes win in New York, and Hand Me Down, the most experienced five-furlong sprinter in the field, with three starts at the distance.

Ring True, based in New York with trainer Jimmy Jerkens, upset Aqueduct's Dearly Precious Stakes at 10-1 in February. She flashed speed and tired when asked to stretch out to 6 1/2 furlongs in a similar minor stakes at the Big A two weeks ago.

Hand Me Down owns the best Beyer Speed Figure at the distance, an 87 for a victory over maiden special weight company at Calder in late December. In her only start against winners, Hand Me Down finished fourth of eight in a five-furlong allowance sprint on turf.

Another horse who shipped north from Florida with good recent form is Lucy Valentine. She won her maiden going five furlongs at Delaware Park last October, then got up by a neck facing first-level allowance sprinters at Gulfstream on April 3. Her trainer, Steve Klesaris, shows excellent stats with horses making their second start off an extended layoff. He's 17 for 58 (29 percent) with a $2.47 return on investment the past two years.

Renew displayed high early speed winning back-to-back races at Philadelphia Park. In two races since then, she stumbled at the start of the Grade 3 Cicada in New York and rallied for fourth from an outside post going 4 1/2 furlongs at Charles Town.