01/22/2004 1:00AM

Sunland: How good is Icy Lane?


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - New Mexico-bred 3-year-old fillies get their first shot at a stakes this meet in Saturday's $125,000-added La Senora Handicap at six furlongs. While Rocky Gulch has proven best in the male statebred category, the fillies have yet to sort themselves out.

Icy Lane has shown in just two career starts that she has the potential to be the real thing. Despite showing signs of immaturity, she drew off by 11 1/2 lengths in her debut here Dec. 16.

"She was a real handful in the mornings, so I took a lot of time getting her to the races," said trainer Jimmie Claridge on Thursday morning. "Even then she was a little green, but she's come a long ways. From what I hear, her mother, Icy Morn, was a rowdy one also."

Icy Lane jumped from the maiden race to a two-other-than allowance and won against many of the same fillies she will face Saturday.

Facing much more experienced rivals, Icy Lane battled stakes winner Queen of Slots from gate to wire and wore her down inside the sixteenth pole to take a one length decision.

"I put her in that race to find out if she was really good enough for this one," Claridge said.

Antonio Noguez, enjoying success in his first meet here, has the return call.

Queen of Slots is not to be written off after that performance, however; that race was her first since winning the filly division of the Sawyer Futurity at Albuquerque on Sept. 21.

"That race was just a tightener," said trainer Carl Draper. "But I have a lot of respect for the potential of [Icy Morn]. All I can say for sure is my filly will be 100 percent on Saturday, and we'll find out who's the best."

Queen of Slots, a homebred owned by Ray Willis, will have regular rider Ricardo Jaime in the saddle.