04/30/2009 12:00AM

Star of Whitney targets rebound


PHOENIX - Star of Whitney returns to her comfort zone, and that may be enough to get the hard-hitting mare back on track as she leads Saturday's $50,000 Desert Sky Handicap at Turf Paradise. The mile grass event, which highlights the penultimate card of the meet, is restricted to fillies and mares who have raced at this meet. The race drew a field of eight.

Star of Whitney looms the prohibitive favorite for owner Honor Roll Racing and trainer Dennis Sowers. The 6-year-old mare has won 11 of 31 races - 9 of 19 on turf - and has been dynamite here. She's won 8 of 13 on the Turf Paradise grass course, including numerous stakes. She posted three consecutive runner-up efforts in stakes this meet before blasting rivals in the Wende here March 6 as the 1-9 favorite.

Like last year, her connections took a shot at the big time with Star of Whitney. A year ago, they tried the Grade 3 Wilshire at Hollywood Park, and she ran last of nine at 30-1. This year, after the strong Wende performance, California again beckoned. They sent her to Santa Anita for the Grade 3 Las Cienegas, a grass sprint April 12, and she finished last of eight at 49-1. Returning to these confines and to this level of competition should help enormously.

Regular rider Ry Eikleberry has the call on Star of Whitney, the 124-pound highweight.

Profitability, trained by Dan McFarlane, has yet to win a stakes, but the one-time European runner may be turning the corner. She flashed talent last fall, finishing second to graded stakes winner Briecat in the Chandler Handicap on this course at about this trip. After a layoff, she has come back with two straight dirt sprint wins March 15 and April 21. The Chandler run shows she has no issues with the turf or this trip. Daniel Vergara rides.

Screaminleapofaith comes here in sharp form. She was second in a pair of turf mile races here and then beat optional claimers on this course at about this trip Feb. 7. After that, she rallied to be second behind Star of Whitney in the March 6 Wende, beaten 3 3/4 lengths.

Jake Barton keeps the call on Screaminleapofaith.