12/28/2006 12:00AM

Snow Lady one to look for late

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - Speed or a closer? Bettors will face that classic dilemma on Saturday when a full field of 14 2-year-old fillies goes to the post for the $60,000 Sandpiper Stakes at six furlongs.

As is usually the case in races involving young horses, the Sandpiper field includes runners in different stages of development, from some who only recently left the maiden ranks to others who have been competing in stakes races.

One Sandpiper entrant that has been facing top company is Snow Lady, a long-striding Snow Ridge filly who will move back to the main track after an unsuccessful experiment on the turf in a statebred stakes at Calder. Prior to finishing eighth in the turf try, Snow Lady ran well in three stakes races. She won the $100,000 Desert Vixen, then ran into Adhrhythm and finished third to her in both the seven-furlong Susan's Girl and the 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl Stakes.

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. has worked Snow Lady four times since her last start, and her late-running style appears to fit perfectly in a Sandpiper field that is loaded with runners showing strong early speed.

Jose Lezcano will ride Snow Lady, who carries 122 pounds.

One of the speed types that deserves a long look is Bear Now, a Tiznow filly who won 2 of her first 3 starts before finishing third to Sealy Hill in the Gloria's Song Stakes at Woodbine. From the stable of Reade Baker, one of the top Canadian trainers, Bear Now has a bullet workout at the Palm Beach Training Center for the Sandpiper and will be ridden by Martin Ramirez.

Other intriguing entrants include Secretsoftheheart, who won her first two outings in eye-catching fashion before finishing third behind a dazzling 10 3/4-length win by Meditations in the $100,000 Three Ring Stakes, and Storm Savvy, who finished third in an allowance prep and will be the only horse in the Sandpiper field with a race over the track here.

Triumphant day abruptly turns sour

Tuesday was an afternoon that jockey Huber Villa-Gomez won't soon forget. He won two races early on the card and appeared to be on his way to a third victory in the six-furlong 10th race when his mount, Maui Escapade, swept past the leaders turning for home and began to draw away through the stretch.

Maui Escapade suddenly broke down passing the sixteenth pole and fell, throwing Villa-Gomez to the ground. Bonzi, who went on to win the race, clipped Villa-Gomez with his hooves as the rider was trying to scramble under the inner rail.

Villa-Gomez suffered a broken shoulder blade and will be out for six to eight weeks.

Bonzi's victory gave trainer Gary Caple two wins on the card, helping give him his best start in many seasons.