09/03/2003 11:00PM

Silver Bird likely to improve


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Silver Bird, Saree, and Pink Champagne, who have each won her only start, will square off in Saturday's $177,000 Natalma Stakes, a one-mile turf race for 2-year-old fillies at Woodbine.

The wild card in the race is America America, who has already run nine times, and on two different continents. She had a win and a second-place finish in a pair of three-furlong races at Gulfstream in April, and has made six of her last seven starts in England, where she placed in several stakes races. America America was entered in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga on Aug. 29 but was scratched.

Silver Bird won her maiden over a muddy track Aug. 2, beating impressive next-out winners Blonde Executive and Princess's Bay. She earned a 78 Beyer Speed Figure, for running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.80.

Trainer Reade Baker believes Silver Bird's effort was better than it looked - but not her best. "I said at the time that I didn't think she finished as well as I thought she would," Baker said. "But it ended up being a key race, with some nice horses in it."

Baker felt Silver Bird was well worth the $40,000 owner Jim McAlpine paid for her at a Florida 2-year-old sale.

"I was shocked that we only had to pay $40,000 for her," Baker said. "She's out of a Grade 1 winner [Family Enterprize]. She's a big, good-looking filly, who's very correct. I was thrilled when we got her, and I'm even happier now. I think she has a brilliant future. She's by Lit de Justice, so I don't think the turf will bother her."

Saree beat 14 opponents when she graduated in a seven-furlong turf race at Lingfield in England July 19. She was subsequently sold to Earle Mack, and is now trained by Mark Casse, who marveled about her five-furlong turf work in 59.60 seconds on Aug. 29. "It was a really big work," Casse said. "She broke off behind three older horses, and ran by them. She galloped out strong."

Pink Champagne, trained by John Kimmel, won her July 17 debut in a maiden special weight race at Belmont by two lengths after a tardy break.

Rounding out the field for the Grade 3 race are Do You Love It, Sleek and Powerful, Summerberry, Sweetgum, Molly's Gone, Lotus Land, Ralla, and Coco's My Dream.

Do You Love It, another Casse runner, finished second to Ralla on the grass in her recent debut.

"I didn't think she'd get beat, but I guess she was a little short," Casse said. "Her only [turf] breeze was awesome. She went in 1:00, and galloped out three-quarters in 1:12 and change."