07/16/2003 11:00PM

Southern Fiction tries Grade 3


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Vicki Oliver continues to look for the crystal ball that foretells the future.

Oliver wishes she found it two years ago so it could have told her to race Southern Fiction on grass.

Southern Fiction, a stakes winner on the main track, became an even more dynamic runner once she ran on turf. The 5-year-old is unbeaten in two grass races, including the Politely Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Southern Fiction faces her toughest turf challenge Saturday afternoon in the Grade 3, $100,000 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth.

"She hasn't been in against the really tough horses on the turf," Oliver said. "Hopefully, she can be a graded stakes filly on the grass. I certainly hope so. I only wish that I knew she was this good on the grass at age 3."

Oliver always had turf in the back of her mind for Southern Fiction.

"I always wanted to put her on the turf," Oliver said. "When you have a good dirt horse, it's hard to put them on the grass."

The only concern for Oliver heading into the race is the relatively quick turnaround. Oliver likes to give the mare plenty of time between starts. Southern Fiction won the Politely June 29.

"It's probably the quickest I've come back with her," Oliver said. "She's never done that, but she's a big, strong mare and carries weight really well."

Southern Fiction totes 117 pounds, one less than highweight Stylish in the 1 1/16 miles race. Joe Bravo, the leading rider at the meet and a superior turf rider, gets the call on Southern Fiction.

Stylish owns outstanding turf stakes credentials. She won stakes races at Rockingham Park and Churchill Downs last year and most recently won the Lady Canterbury Breeders' Cup Stakes at Canterbury Park. Heberto Castillo, Jr. gets the mount from trainer Bill Mott.

Something Ventured also carries 117 pounds. She captured the Auntie Mame at Belmont Park last time out for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Win's First Lady (115) is an interesting horse who tries grass for the first time. The speedy filly ships north from Calder for trainer Steve Standridge. Former Monmouth regular Rosemary Homeister will ride.

Completing the field are Maresha (113), La Tizona (112), Love N' Kiss S. (114), Sweet Deimos (112), Cocktailsandreams (113), and Caught Out (115).

* The $50,000 Bernie Dowd Handicap, for New Jersey-breds at six furlongs, drew nine runners on the Eatontown undercard.

Our Wildcat, with Bravo aboard for trainer Eddie Broome, should respond positively to the return to a main-track sprint. He was not a factor in the Lincroft Handicap at one mile on turf.