04/21/2004 11:00PM

Spirited Game gives 2 turns another go


Spirited Game is undefeated in three starts at sprint distances. In her only attempt around two turns, however, Spirited Game beat only one horse, finishing more than 10 lengths behind the winner, He Loves Me.

Logically, trainer Ron Cartwright ought to avoid route races and He Loves Me when choosing a spot for Spirited Game. But the lure of the $75,000 Caesar's Wish, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old Maryland-bred fillies at Pimlico, has proven too strong for Cartwright to resist.

Spirited Game comes off a win in the six-furlong Smart Halo three weeks ago. She showed a new dimension, coming from far off the pace instead of battling for the early lead. So perhaps if she has learned to relax, Spirited Game can last a lot longer than she did when she set the pace and faded badly in the 1 1/16-mile Wide County last month.

He Loves Me and Plata are the prime threats.

In her most recent start, He Loves Me beat Pawyne Princess, who came within a neck of defeating the gelding Water Cannon in last weekend's Federico Tesio Stakes. Pawyne Princess is headed to the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan.

He Loves Me, who needs a fast pace to set up her late kick, must pick up seven pounds off her last win and will carry high weight of 122.

Plata improved dramatically in her last start, her first race beyond seven furlongs. She earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure in that race, a victory over high-priced optional claimers, to remain unbeaten in three career starts. Coming back on three weeks' rest off a career top, however, Plata is a candidate to bounce.

New York shipper Two Bayou won four races in a row while moving up the claiming ladder and clearing her first-allowance condition, but was unable to handle Grade 3 stakes competition in the Comely. She scratched out of a two-other-than allowance at Aqueduct Thursday for this spot.