11/01/2002 1:00AM

Sovereign in sight for Mulrainy

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - All eyes will be on Mulrainy at Woodbine on Sunday, when she stakes her claim for the Sovereign Award as this year's champion 3-year-old filly in the $165,750 Jammed Lovely Stakes.

Mulrainy will try to notch her third stakes of the year in the seven-furlong race, which has lured eight other Canadian-breds. There are also two one-mile grass stakes on the 10-race card, the Labeeb and River Memories.

After capturing her season debut, Mulrainy dropped her next five starts, which included a close third-place finish in the Wilderness Song Stakes. She put it all together when her trainer, Tom O'Keefe, tried blinkers on her on Aug. 10, in the seven-furlong Duchess Stakes, in which she defeated three United States invaders, winning by nearly three lengths in good time.

"I wish I had put the blinkers on her earlier in the year," O'Keefe recalled. "When she was beaten in a three-horse photo in the Wilderness Song, I thought it was time to try them."

Mulrainy was upset in her next start against older opponents, in the 1 1/16-mile Algoma Stakes, finishing second to Small Promises, now a leading candidate for the older filly or mare Sovereign.

O'Keefe believes Mulrainy's best race came last time out, in the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette Stakes, in which she pressed the pace before dropping back, and then re-rallied to prevail with determination under regular rider Chantal Sutherland.

"She challenged Jealous Forum on the lead all the way," O'Keefe said. "Winning Chance got through on the inside at the head of the lane, and got the jump on her, but she reached down and gave it everything she had."

O'Keefe feels Mulrainy already deserves the Sovereign, and that a win Sunday would simply help solidify her position at the head of the division.

"If she wins Sunday, I think that would put the cap on it," O'Keefe said. "She'll have won three stakes, going long and short, including a graded one in open company."

O'Keefe called Mulrainy's ninth-place finish in the Woodbine Oaks "her only bad race."

Also entered in the Jammed Lovely are Brass in Pocket, Whistling Maid, Embossed, Heyahohowdy, Spanish Decree, Mountain Orchid, Tacky Affair, and Susan Gracey.

There is no shortage of speed in the field, and a hot pace could help set the table for a closing Tacky Affair. Trained by David Bell, Tacky Affair returned from a two-month layoff to finish second against older $80,000 opposition in a 6 1/2-furlong race Oct. 3.

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