08/03/2006 11:00PM

Stormy Kiss by a neck in tenacious effort

Stormy Kiss (right) streaks toward a neck victory over a late-surging Malibu Mint (left) in the Honorable Miss.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Stormy Kiss withstood a slight bobble at the break, early pace pressure, and a closing surge from Malibu Mint before posting a well-deserved neck decision in Friday's $150,000 at Saratoga.

Stormy Kiss, a Group 1 winner in her native Argentina at 3, quickly recovered after bobbling briefly leaving the gate to contest the pace while under a strong hold from jockey Javier Castellano. A daughter of Bernstein, Stormy Kiss angled a bit wide while discouraging Miss Elsie on her outside in early stretch and Grecian Lover along the rail near midstretch, before holding safe a determined late rally from Malibu Mint.

"I told Javier not to push her, that she can stalk, but once she stumbled she kind of rushed herself up there," said Barclay Tagg, who trains Stormy Kiss for the Lael Stable. "But once she made the lead, Javier took a hold of her and did a great job."

Stormy Kiss ran six furlongs in 1:10.58 over a track upgraded to fast earlier in the day, and paid $10.

Malibu Mint, who won the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder less than three weeks earlier, turned in another big effort in defeat, finishing full of run despite losing considerable ground leaving the turn and failing to change leads through the stretch. Grecian Lover weakened and checked home another 1 3/4 lengths back in third.

Reunited, the 5-2 second choice in a field of six fillies and mares, lost her best chance when she was knocked back to last after 2-1 favorite Ever Elusive ducked in leaving the gate. Ever Elusive recovered to prompt the early pace from outside before finishing a tiring fifth.

Tagg said he had nothing picked out for Stormy Kiss's next start but would like to run her once more here before the end of the meet.

"I think she's capable of going seven furlongs or even a mile the way she settles into her stride," said Tagg. "I'll probably think about the Ballerina."

The Grade 1 Ballerina will be decided at seven furlongs on Aug. 27.

Capote Belle: 'Cherokee' skims rail

Trainer Tim Hills couldn't have scripted the $72,250 Capote Belle Stakes any better for Cherokee Jewel, who turned a hotly contested pace and a rail-skimming trip into a 2 1/4-length victory over Kahlila in her stakes debut.

Gleaming Elegance, Fast Deal, and Coli Bear engaged in an early fight for the lead, setting the stage for Cherokee Jewel to slip through along the inside under jockey Eibar Coa. She overtook the leaders near midstretch and edged away to her fourth victory in five career starts. Khalila, rated just off the lead, gained a short advantage near the furlong marker, but proved no match for the winner. India finished fifth as the 2-1 favorite.

Cherokee Jewel ran six furlongs in 1:11.08 and paid $8.70.

"She's a fearless filly who has acted like a horse who has run more races right from her first start this winter in Florida," said Hills, who trains Cherokee Jewel for owner Robert Susi. "This race couldn't have set up any better for her. The hardest thing was convincing the owner to bring her up here."

Hills said he'd likely look for a graded stakes for Cherokee Jewel's next start.

"Now's the time to step up and take a chance against graded company," said Hills.