04/19/2006 11:00PM

Sticky or Plata could deny Silmaril a repeat


Rewards beyond the usual purse money add to the appeal of three restricted stakes on the undercard of Saturday's Spring Festival of Racing program at Pimlico, which is topped by the $150,000 Federico Tesio.

Three of Maryland's leading breeding farms are each sponsoring a stakes, and each farm has donated a season to two stallions which will go to the breeders of the top two finishers in their race.

The stakes, worth up to $125,000 apiece counting bonus money, are restricted to Maryland Million-nominated or Maryland-bred horses.

The biggest field and best betting race is the Northview Stallion Station Stakes for fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles.

Silmaril and Grant's Moon, separated by 1 1/2 lengths as the one-two finishers in this same race last year, are contenders again. But those 5-year-old mares will be hard-pressed to hold off challenges from Sticky, who has won three of her last four starts, and Plata, who could be sitting on a peak performance in the third start of her form cycle.

Silmaril, who boasts a 4-for-5 record at Pimlico, followed up her win in last year's Northview Stallion by upsetting Ashado in the Grade 3 Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff. She hasn't come close to her best form in three subsequent starts, including her only race this season in last month's seven-furlong Conniver at Laurel.

Likewise, Grant's Moon has not been sharp in her two 2006 races.

In contrast, Sticky comes into the race fresh and in sharp form. Since October, she has been first or second in three starts, all stakes, including a half-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Maryland Racing Media Handicap on Feb. 25.

Plata, who raced only three times in 2005, now makes her third start since March 11. Although she finished fourth last time out in the one-mile Snow Goose, Plata improved her Beyer from an 83 to an 88, and would be extremely dangerous with another move forward.

Two others with a chance are 2005 stakes winner Only in Philly, who has been steadily working in Florida for her second start since an 11-month layoff, and the consistent Take a Check, whose last six Beyer Speed Figures have been between 84 and 89.

* Great Seneca, Pagan Moon, and Rainbow Inthestorm look like the three fastest sprinters in the Maryland Stallion Station, for 3-year-olds going six furlongs. Great Seneca, who easily won the 5 1/2-furlong Dancing Count on New Year's Day, and Rainbow Inthestorm both like to run up front. Great Seneca finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of tiring pacesetter Rainbow Inthestorm when they met in last month's Horatius at Laurel.

Pagan Moon makes his stakes debut after learning to rate and finish strongly in a first-level allowance win earlier this month.

Travelin Leroy did well sprinting early in his career and cuts back to what could be his preferred distance after getting trounced twice in stakes at Oaklawn Park by Kentucky Derby contender Lawyer Ron.

* For Kisses, a winner of three straight races since January, makes her stakes debut in the the Country Life Farm for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Her five rivals include Somethinaboutbetty, winner of the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Championship at Laurel, and Salsa Music, who stretches out to a route after winning three consecutive sprints at Penn National by a combined 22 3/4 lengths.