12/31/2009 1:00AM

Stakes kicks off pivotal meet

Barbara D. Livingston
That's How I Roll will take on Maryland-breds Friday in the Maryland Fillies Championship.

The weather forecast for central Maryland calls for a mixture of rain and snow showers on New Year's Day, which seems appropriate considering that Laurel Park's future also is murky.

Laurel, along with its sister track Pimlico, the Bowie Training Center, and the Preakness Stakes are scheduled to be sold at auction on Jan. 8, one week into Laurel's 2010 winter meet. Among the six bidders are Maryland developer the Cordish Cos., Penn National Gaming, and former Maryland Jockey Club owner Joe De Francis and his sister Karin.

What's certain for the moment is that Laurel will run a 58-day meet, with live racing Wednesday through Saturday, through

April 10.

A total of 18 stakes are scheduled, topped by the Grade 2, $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap on Feb. 13 and the Grade 2, $150,000 General George Handicap on Feb. 15.

Friday's nine-race card includes the $50,000 Maryland Fillies Championship, a 7 1/2-furlong race restricted to Maryland-bred 3-year-old fillies. It was rescheduled after the Dec. 19 card that marked the last day of live racing in Maryland for 2009 was snowed out.

The lineup for the Maryland Fillies looks almost identical to the original draw of the stakes. The revamped field now contains 11 fillies instead of 12.

Big Gulp and Frocks Valley Girl, both 30-1 in the original field, did not re-enter. The one new addition is Favored Lady, whose two wins both came for a $25,000 claiming tag.

The two most intriguing prospects are That's How I Roll, a New York-based filly who will be facing statebreds for the first time, and locally based Roaring Lion, a recent maiden winner.

That's How I Roll is a daughter of the mare Chatter Chatter, who as a 2-year-old won the $400,000 My Dear Girl and the $150,000 Joe O'Farrell at Calder.

Although her only win in six starts came in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint, That's How I Roll did finish second in the off-the-turf Junior Champion Stakes going a mile at Monmouth Park, which indicates she should be a good fit for Friday's one-turn 7 1/2-furlong race.

Brave as a Lion, trained by Richard Small, is a full sister to Roaring Lion, who won the Maryland Juvenile Championship in 2006.

Brave as a Lion's maiden win came at six furlongs, but two starts ago she was good enough to be second of eight going a mile.

Jim's Prospect makes her first start for John Secor after her previous trainer, Carlos Garcia, retired from training in mid-December to become a jockey agent. She has not been worse than third in three starts, including two against open company.

Smart Tori, from the high-percentage barn of Gary Capuano, was beaten two lengths in the seven-furlong Tri-State Futurity at Charles Town two starts ago.

Popeye's Lady, trained by Rodney Jenkins, has been no worse than second in her last four starts. She will be racing beyond six furlongs for the first time after missing by a head while earning a career-best 71 Beyer Speed Figure two starts ago and winning a high-priced optional claimer going 5 1/2 furlongs.