05/13/2004 12:00AM

Speedy Sonata has the experience


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Two weeks ago, bettors wondered how the Kentucky Derby runners would handle a sloppy track and 1 1/4 miles. Saturday at Churchill Downs, in the $100,000 Open Mind Stakes, speculation again revolves around how the entrants will handle the surface and distance.

Carded at five furlongs on turf for 3-year-old fillies, the Open Mind is a challenging handicapping race, because so few of the runners have experience under the race's conditions. Eight of the 10 entrants have never raced on grass, and only Speedy Sonata has won on turf.

A 3-year-old daughter of Stravinsky, is easily the most experienced turf horse in the field. In four starts on grass, she has recorded a win, a second, and two off-the-board finishes. Her most recent start, a fourth-place finish, was her best turf race.

Racing against older fillies and mares last month in the Stravinsky Stakes at Keeneland, Speedy Sonata performed admirably, finishing three-quarters of a length behind the winner, multiple stakes winner Dyna Da Wyna. In addition, stakes winners Boozin' Susan and Put Me In were just narrowly in front of her.

Facing no such accomplished turf rivals in the Open Mind, Speedy Sonata is a deserving favorite against her own age group. Robby Albarado rides for trainer Toni Gabriel and owner Carl Icahn.

is one of eight fillies being tried on the grass for the first time. Undefeated in two starts, she comes off a three-length score in an entry-level allowance at Keeneland on April 4. A daughter of Tactical Cat, Dazzle Me breezed on the Churchill Downs turf Tuesday, as did several other Open Mind starters.

Dazzle Me worked well, covering three furlongs around the dogs in 38.40 seconds. Even so, "you really don't know until you let them drop their head on it," said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "That's up in the air, but it is five-eighths of a mile, and she is extremely fast."

With Dazzle Me's regular rider Shane Sellers riding The Cliff's Edge in the Preakness at Pimlico on Saturday, Rene Douglas has been named to ride. She breaks from post 1, suggesting her speed will have to be utilized from the start.

Victoire Bataille has the pedigree to perform well in the Open Mind, despite no grass experience. She is a daughter of Military, a Grade 1 winner on turf, out of a dam, Gen Corp Purposes, who won her only race on turf, at Fair Grounds.

In her only start, Victoire Bataille won a maiden race at Churchill on April 24. John McKee rides.