02/11/2004 1:00AM

Stakes-caliber fillies line up for feature

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NEW ORLEANS - A rash of defections has diminished Saturday's Grade 2 Silverbulletday Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, so much so that Thursday's featured ninth race at Fair Grounds might be in the same league.

The Thursday feature is an entry-level allowance at one mile on dirt. An optional claiming race carded for one mile on turf, but likely to be run on dirt, lends support a race before the feature.

At least three fillies in the ninth race might have been good enough to take a swing in the Silverbulletday had their connections so desired. was done in by a wide draw when she finished 10th here in the Jan. 25 Tiffany Lass Stakes, and a month earlier she had beaten a horse named Song Track by three-quarters of a length in a maiden route race. Song Track returned to win by more than seven lengths on Jan. 11 and faces Good Humor Gal again, while Steady Course, scratched from the Jan. 3 Thelma Stakes, appears to be a major pace threat Thursday.

needed five tries to win her maiden, but her breakthrough came with authority. Steady Course won a Churchill maiden race by more than three lengths on Nov. 23, and was likely to be the favorite in the Thelma when a minor illness forced her from the race. Thursday's start will be Steady Course's first around two turns, but she is by Old Trieste and out of a Storm Cat mare - more than suitable distance breeding - and comes into this start with a favorable workout pattern.

If Twice a Deelite goes with Steady Course early, neither is likely to win, and the race sets up for Song Track, Good Humor Gal, or perhaps even Twilight Gallop. Song Track, a Dixieland Band filly bred and owned by Will Farish and Ogden Mills Phipps, finished fourth behind Steady Course in her career debut. After her second to Good Humor Gal, Song Track put together her first complete race, drawing steadily away from seven opponents for an easy maiden win. With more experience, she might have wound up in Saturday's stakes race, and she figures to continue moving forward in this allowance start.

Trainer Troy Young was high on Good Humor Gal before the Tiffany Lass, but Good Humor Gal looked nothing like the filly who had held off Song Track in her previous race. Post 10 in a 13-horse field had plenty to do with that performance, and for this start, Good Humor Gal has a much better draw on the rail.