08/29/2001 11:00PM

Star Queen deserves top billing on home turf


When last they met, the home team won. That was when Golden Antigua, based at Arlington Park with Wayne Catalano, pulled a mild upset over the invading Star Queen in a July 21 race at Arlington.

On Saturday, Star Queen, a Kingmambo filly, will be on more familiar turf when facing Golden Antigua and nine other fillies and mares in the $50,000 Dade Turf Classic at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. Star Queen, trained at Churchill Downs by Pete Salmen Jr., clearly has the credentials to turn the tables in a well-matched race, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

In her last start, Star Queen, to be ridden by James Lopez, was a well-beaten sixth in the Ellis showcase, the Aug. 11 Gardenia Stakes on dirt. But Star Queen tends to do her best work on grass, and it seems a top effort could result in her first stakes victory Saturday.

Besides Golden Antigua, other top challengers include Ornate, Abita, and Ruthian. The race is carded as the ninth of 10.

The Dade Turf Classic helps open the final weekend of the 41-day Ellis meet, which closes Monday with the Tri-State Handicap. Action on the Kentucky circuit shifts Wednesday to Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

* Leelanau, the 2-year-old Carson City colt who set a track record in winning the Kentucky Breeders' Cup at Churchill in May, is back in training, said trainer Steve Morguelan. "We're hoping to have him back racing at the end of Keeneland [late October] or early here," said Morguelan.

* Count trainer Frank Brothers among those who are glad to see jockey Shane Sellers back in action. Sellers returned to riding last Saturday after being away for eight months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a knee.

"I'm thrilled to death he's coming back," said Brothers, speaking Thursday in his Churchill stable office. "I had a lot of confidence in him coming back, but of course it was his knee, not mine. He's been here working quite a few horses for me, and I think the more he does the better he'll get."

Brothers and Sellers, both Louisiana natives, long have been known for their successes together, dating to the Chicago circuit in the late 1980's. Their most notable triumphs came in 1997 with Pulpit. Sellers will be at River Downs on Saturday to ride Bema for Brothers in the $100,000 Bassinet Stakes.

* Horses who normally would have been stabled at Churchill's Sports Spectrum training annex this summer instead were temporarily relocated to Churchill, where a sufficient number of stalls come open when stables ship to Saratoga or Arlington. The Spectrum is scheduled to reopen next week after being closed for about seven weeks because of renovations and repairs to the stabling area.