03/08/2007 12:00AM

Silmaril towers over her rivals


Few trainers are willing to challenge multiple stakes winner Silmaril in a race restricted to Maryland-breds.

Only eight other fillies and mares were nominated and just four were entered to face Silmaril in Saturday's $75,000 Conniver Stakes at Laurel Park.

Silmaril, a winner of eight stakes at five different distances, appears almost unbeatable in the seven-furlong Conniver, as evidenced by her 2-5 odds on the track's morning line.

In five starts around one turn since last October, all with her regular rider, Ryan Fogelsonger, the 6-year-old Silmaril has run Beyer Speed Figures in the narrow range of 97 to 101. She most recently finished a close second to Oprah Winney in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie on Feb. 17.

"There is no doubt in my mind she was the best filly in the Fritchie," said Silmaril's trainer, Chris Grove. "She got into a little trouble at the half-mile pole and had to expend a little more energy to get to where she needed to be at the eighth pole. Once there, she hesitated to go through the hole on the rail. Once Ryan got outside of Oprah Winney she was full of run."

Grove said long-range goals for Silmaril could include the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day or the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont Park on Preakness Day.

Aside from Scheing E Jet, who was cross-entered in a high-priced optional claiming race on Friday's Laurel program and has lost twice to Silmaril since late December, only one other horse in the Conniver lineup has managed to break 90 on the Beyer scale.

My Girlie posted winning Beyers of 99 and 91 last year, but her current form is dull. In six starts since October, My Girlie hasn't run faster than a 79.

Hope Seven is 2 for 2 at Laurel, but she's already 5 and has never run faster than an 81 Beyer.

La Chica Rica's best shot would come over a wet track. She has three wins and a second the last four times she has raced on an off track, including a 17-1 upset in the seven-furlong Squan Song in December.