05/11/2004 11:00PM

Speedy Sonata fits turf sprint

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When trainer Toni Gabriel gives instructions to the riders of her horses, the words are spoken from experience. Gabriel, formerly Toni Beckelman, rode regularly in Kentucky as an apprentice jockey in the early 1990's.

Those days long over, she does not find herself wishing she were riding rather than training. She said her riding career was tailing off in Kentucky after she lost her apprentice weight allowance, and other circumstances in her life - such as her marriage to her husband, Terry - became priorities. Training "kind of fell in my lap," she said. "And I've loved every minute of it."

Saturday she will saddle Speedy Sonata in the $100,000 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs. A short-distance turf filly, Speedy Sonata is well-suited to the Open Mind, which is restricted to 3-year-old fillies and run over five furlongs on grass.

Last month facing older mares in the Stravinsky Stakes at Keeneland, Speedy Sonata nearly scored an upset at 26-1. Taking the lead at the eighth pole after stalking the pace, she was run down in the closing yards in the 5 1/2-furlong turf race. She finished fourth behind multiple stakes winner Dyna Da Wyna, beaten three-quarters of a length.

Gabriel said Speedy Sonata is a better filly than her earnings of $59,385 would suggest. There have been few opportunities to run her short on turf against her own age and sex, she said. The Open Mind is a rare exception.

Speedy Sonata, owned Carl Icahn of Foxfield, has not been the only good filly Gabriel has trained. Last fall, she and Terry sold Minge Cove privately following a fourth-place finish in her debut at Churchill Downs. Minge Cove won the Via Borghese Stakes at Gulfstream March 21.

"She was a nice filly - I really didn't want to sell that one," she said. "But my husband and I own some and pinhook a bit. Sometimes that's what you do."

Even without Minge Cove, Gabriel continues to produce with her eight-horse stable, which is based eight months of the year at Keeneland and Ellis Park. She has won 10 of 61 races over the course of her three-year training career.

Gabriel is hopeful Speedy Sonata can soon give her another winner. "She's doing well," she said.

Black Escort coming from Maryland

Speedy Sonata is expected to be part of a large field in the Open Mind, led by French invader Black Escort. Trainer Graham Motion said she would ship her from his base at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland to Churchill Downs on Wednesday evening.

Black Escort, a minor stakes winner at Deauville, is unraced since finishing third in the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte Oct. 31.

Other possible starters are Anna Em, Avaricity, Dazzle Me, In Rome, Movant, Prospective Saint, Rose of Pembroke, Thisgirldontlaugh, and Victoire Bataille.

Several of those horses worked around the dogs on the Churchill Downs turf course Tuesday morning, including Dazzle Me, who breezed three furlongs in 38.40 seconds for trainer Steve Asmussen. Undefeated in two starts on dirt, she will be making her turf debut in the Open Mind.

* Besides running Dazzle Me in the Open Mind Saturday at Churchill Downs, Asmussen will have two starters on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico. Bwana Charlie will run in the six-furlong Hirsch Jacobs Stakes and Warleigh will run in the Grade 2 Argent Dixie at 1 1/8 miles on turf, Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi said.

Scrimshaw ends win drought

Scrimshaw, winless in seven starts since winning the 2003 Lexington Stakes, got back on a winning track Wednesday by taking the third race, a $63,000 allowance. Last of six midway through the race, he struggled in traffic before closing to victory under left-handed whipping by Pat Day.

"We were back in a pocket, not by design," said Day. "He didn't get free until the stretch and came up with what he needed."

Scrimshaw, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, ran the seven furlongs over a fast track in 1:23.75 and paid $3.60. He won by a length over Elite Mercedes. "It was good to get his number back on the board," Day said.

* Day won five races Wednesday, moving past Rafael Bejarano for first place in the rider standings. Day picked up two winning mounts from Shane Sellers, who did not ride. Sellers had travel difficulties returning from a trip from Louisiana, agent Fred Aime said.

* Graded stakes winners Lady Tak and My Boston Gal head a group of 16 nominations to the inaugural running of the six-furlong Winning Colors Stakes May 22. Both come off allowance victories at Churchill Downs.