05/19/2006 12:00AM

State champs face some speedy challengers


Can last year's champions handle the new shooters? That's the question handicappers must answer Sunday when assessing the field in the $40,000 Lady Slipper Stakes at Canterbury Park.

Restricted to Minnesota-bred fillies and mares, the six-furlong Lady Slipper will showcase Bleu's Apparition and Sentimental Charm, who were named statebred champion in their respective divisions and who were both honored last week by the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association.

Bleu's Apparition was named champion older filly or mare for her three wins at the meet last season, including a victory in the MTA Distaff Sprint. A daughter of Silver Ghost owned by Jeff Hilger and trained by Doug Oliver, Bleu's Apparition prepped for Sunday's race at Turf Paradise. Scott Stevens will ride.

Sentimental Charm, now 3, was named the state's best juvenile filly for her four stakes appearances last season, which included an impressive win in the Northern Lights Debutante. A daughter of Silver Charm owned by Jim Peltier, Sentimental Charm finished third to Anne Shirley in a statebred allowance contest two weeks ago in her seasonal bow. Derek Bell has ridden Sentimental Charm in all her starts at Canterbury Park and will again. She is trained by Troy Bethke.

Front-running Anne Shirley is also in the Lady Slipper. A winner in her first two career outings, both at Calder, Anne Shirley was claimed for $25,000 in her third start, which came at Aqueduct in January. Trainer David Van Winkle and co-owner Connie Phillips were rewarded with a five-length win when Anne Shirley made her first start at Canterbury Park on opening weekend. Juan Rivera has the call.

Devil Not Me turned heads with a 7 1/2-length win in her career debut last season and looked just as impressive winning her seasonal bow by daylight two weeks ago. An undefeated 3-year-old filly, Devil Not Me has the early speed to match Anne Shirley, leaving rider Paul Nolan with several tactical options in the Lady Slipper.

Not to be overlooked is Grand Rapids Miss, who captured the Princess Elaine Stakes last season. A daughter of Demidoff and the Mt. Livermore mare Sugar Hills Miss, Grand Rapids Miss seeks to emulate her own dam, who won a statebred sprint stakes. Nik Goodwin rides.