04/04/2002 1:00AM

Star Shoot just a warmup

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Lady Shari certainly doesn't have to win Saturday's Star Shoot Stakes. The $125,000 race for 3-year-old fillies is at six furlongs, and Lady Shari, who hasn't raced since November, has never won going shorter than 1 1/16 miles.

"If she ever wins it, it's just because she was best," said Dave Cotey, trainer and co-owner of Lady Shari, who won the Grade 1 Mazarine over 1 1/16 miles here last fall and wound up second in the Sovereign Award voting for the division. Also last year, Lady Shari finished second in both the 1 1/16-mile Polly Drummond at Delaware Park and the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle at Aqueduct.

"We're just going to keep it the way she was doing it - sitting off the pace, getting her feet under her - and let her run the last three-eighths," Cotey said. "She's got a nice three-furlong run."

While her Canadian-bred peers can look forward to the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks on June 8, Lady Shari was foaled in Kentucky. So her primary target, and probably the best opportunity she'll have here all season, is the Grade 1, $250,000 Selene, an open 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies May 20.

Despite being obviously a prep, the Star Shoot is an important race for Lady Shari, Cotey said.

"It's imperative that we get this race into her at this particular time, and that we don't hurt her," said Cotey. "I just want to make sure we get two starts into her before the Selene, and there are no stakes for her to run in here other than this one."

Not too long ago, Cotey feared his early-season program for Lady Shari was in serious jeopardy.

"She had a rough winter," he said. "She just didn't do well. Her coat was dull; she wouldn't let go of her hair in here. But she's coming along good; she's looking a little better. In the last week, she's just picked it up."

Lady Shari was given the green light for the Star Shoot after working a half-mile in 48.40 seconds under regular rider Constant Montpellier here Monday

"She finished strong," said Montpellier. "By the time she runs her right distance, she'll probably be at the top of her game."

Turf stakes in his future

Cotey also is hoping for big things from Stage Classic, who like Lady Shari is owned by Dominion Bloodstock, which is Cotey's nom du course, along with partners Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith.

A Kentucky-bred, Stage Classic made three trips to western Canada in 2001, highlighted by a win in the Manitoba Derby over 1 1/8 miles, and was a Sovereign Award finalist in the 3-year-old colt or gelding division.

But his best performance came in his last start, when he defeated older rivals in the Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap over 1 3/8 miles of yielding turf here Oct. 28.

"He was probably at his best after that race," said Cotey. "I was so tempted to go on with him, but I put him away. There's some awful nice racing for him this year - there's such a lucrative grass program."

Stage Classic has seven workouts under his belt this year, the most recent a five-furlong breeze of 1:01.60 here last Sunday.

"He's training awesome," said Cotey. "We'll probably go for a prep or two on the dirt, then stick to grass races."

Cotey is looking ahead toward turf handicaps such as the King Edward Gold Cup, at 1 1/8 miles here June 16, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy, at 1 3/8 miles here July 21. Both races are worth $300,000.

"He can run a mile and a sixteenth, too, but the longer the better," said Cotey. "He doesn't get tired; he can go forever."

Walls aboard Changeintheweather

Jockey Mickey Walls will be out of town Saturday, riding Changeintheweather in the $500,000 Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park.

Walls rode Changeintheweather in his three starts here last year, which included a win in the Grade 1 Grey. Owned by the Pin Oak Stable of Josephine Abercrombie and trained by David Bell, Changeintheweather was runner-up in the voting for Canada's champion male 2-year-old last year.

Changeintheweather, winner of one of two starts for Bell at Gulfstream Park this winter, could put himself into the Kentucky Derby picture with a big effort Saturday.

Racing on television

Sixty Thoroughbred racing broadcasts - 53 editions of Woodbine Post Time and seven stakes specials - will air on the cable television channel Sportsnet this season, Woodbine Entertainment Group announced Wednesday.

The Woodbine Post Time shows, which run either 90 minutes or two hours, include several live races. The stakes specials will include the Plate Trial, Queen's Plate, Atto Mile, and Canadian International.

In addition, 21 full Woodbine cards are to be simulcast on the cable channel Headline Sports, on Sundays beginning at noon. The second of those new broadcasts will air this Sunday.