11/23/2006 12:00AM

Strong support on big day


As recently as two years ago, the Anne Arundel for 3-year-old fillies was a Grade 3 stakes. Considering the quality of this year's field for the $125,000 race at Laurel Park, the Graded Stakes Committee might well take a good look at restoring the Anne Arundel's status for 2007.

Recent Grade 2 winner Leah's Secret and Baby Bird, a close third in a rapidly run Grade 2 stakes in her last start, top a good group of 14 fillies going a mile in race 8 on Saturday's Fall Festival of Racing program. The Anne Arundel, among six stakes worth $100,000 or more on a 10-race program highlighted by the Grade 1 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash, would have had another graded stakes winner, but Sangrita, who captured the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill Downs earlier this month, instead ran in Thursday's Falls City Handicap there.

Although Leah's Secret is coming off an 18-1 upset in the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland, Baby Bird ran much faster finishing third in the Grade 2 Cotillion Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

Based in New York with trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., Baby Bird was given a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 for finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind winner India in the 1 1/16-mile Cotillion. That figure towers over the Beyer Figure of 84 that Leah's Secret got for her seven-furlong win on Polytrack a month ago.

Several other fillies merit respect, most notably For Kisses, Les Ry Leigh, Peak Maria's Way, and Julie B.

The locally based For Kisses, trained by Dickie Small, won the Maryland Million Oaks last month, then finished third, beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Peak Maria's Way, in an overnight stakes at Delaware Park. Peak Maria's Way, who picked up small pieces of the purse in three graded stakes earlier this season, earned a career-high 95 Beyer for her most recent win.

Les Ry Leigh returns to Laurel, where she romped in a one-mile stakes restricted to Maryland-breds two starts ago. Julie B has been the best filly on the grounds at Charles Town, where she has won five races, including four stakes.

In other races on the undercard:

* The European import Moudez, trained by Bill Mott, has a good spot for his North American debut in the $125,000 Laurel Futurity, a 1 1/16-mile race on turf. Moudez, coupled in the wagering with another European, Brainy Benny, won his career debut and followed up with a strong performance in a Group 3 race. Both times, he ran over soft turf, so he is an unknown on firmer ground. Two other contenders are C R's Deputy, fourth in the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont, and On My Dime, who won impressively in his turf debut over the local course.

* The $100,000 April Run, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, might be the best betting race on the card. Among the 20 entered - 14 can run - are a handful of horses who have been placed at the Grade 3 level, including Rahy's Appeal, Latice, Marchonin, Art Fan, and Humoristic. There's also Redaspen, who is 2 for 2 over Laurel's turf course and comes off a career-best performance winning a stakes at the Meadowlands.

* The 3-year-old Miraculous Miss, a multiple graded stakes winner sprinting, runs seven furlongs in the $100,000 Stefanita. Her chief challengers are Emerald Earrings, a three-time stakes winner this season, and Miss Elvis, third in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss.

* Street Sounds, third in the $125,000 Jessamine at Keeneland, appears formidable in the $125,000 Selima, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 2-year-old fillies. The field also includes Limonella, fourth in the Miss Grillo at Belmont and third in the Salem County at the Meadowlands. A live longshot could be Scenery Change, a maiden with a high Tomlinson rating for grass from the barn of Michael Matz, who won last year's Laurel Futurity with Barbaro.

* Topping, third for a $30,000 claiming price last time out and second in a similar race going nine furlongs last month, is the horse to beat in the $50,000 Maryland Million Starter Handicap for horses who have started for a claiming price of $10,000 or less in the past year.