05/09/2007 11:00PM

Steady stakes diet points out Mystic Soul

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ALBANY, Calif. - Saturday's $75,000 Golden Poppy Stakes may go to the most improved 3-year-old filly running in the 1 1/16-mile turf race. The question is, which of the seven fillies is the most improved?

On paper, Mystic Soul is the one to beat as she comes north for the first time for trainer Jeff Mullins. She hasn't won since being claimed for $75,000 from her winning debut at Belmont last Oct. 5, but she was second in the Miss Grillo at Belmont in her second start and then was runner-up in the Grade 3 Miesque last fall at Hollywood Park.

Since her debut, Mystic Soul has run exclusively in stakes and has been fourth in the China Doll and eighth after setting the pace in the Grade 3 Providencia at Santa Anita in her two starts this year. Both of those races earned higher Beyers - an 86 in the China Doll and an 84 in the Providencia - than all but one of her rivals has earned (Round Trip Flight got an 85 on the dirt winning the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Oaks).

There's no reason to assume she'll be anything but stronger in her third outing of the year, although she will be running on a much lusher, deeper turf course than the one at Santa Anita. Mystic Soul adds blinkers for the first time.

Local trainers Gloria Buckridge and Jerry Hollendorfer each send out an uncoupled pair.

Hollendorfer enters Round Trip Flight, who won the Oaks in her last start, and Rockella, who has won three straight for three different barns. Buckridge enters the trouble-plagued Whims and Fancies, who has lost to the two Hollendorfer fillies in her past two starts, and Comedy Girl, who has gone 2 for 2 since moving to Buckridge's barn and to the turf.

Hollendorfer claimed Rockella for $32,000 from a win on April 11 and put her on the turf and stretched her out for the first time against allowance company. She beat stablemate Lemon Kiss with a game performance.

"We're giving her a chance here because she's run well, but this is a big jump," Hollendorfer said. "We honestly didn't think about turf when we claimed her. We thought she would have stamina, and, when we discussed it, decided to give it a try."

While 3-year-olds can seemingly mature overnight, Hollendorfer isn't sure how much better Rockella will be Saturday in her second start for him. He does believe that Round Trip Flight, who won her turf debut before winning the Oaks, is still on an uptick.

"She's been doing real well," he said.

Buckridge says an equipment change and fixing a breathing problem have made the difference for Comedy Girl.

"She's just one that's getting better and better," she said. "She moves so freely we wanted to try her on turf, but she'll run on dirt as well as turf. She's learning to relax a little bit more and is putting more weight on."

Whims and Fancies is strictly a turf runner in Buckridge's estimation, and she doesn't sell the filly short.

"She's had a lot of bad go-rounds," Buckridge said. "She got stopped three times in her last race."