03/11/2010 1:00AM

Sweet and Flawless all grown up


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Sweet and Flawless, a somewhat nervous and skittish filly at 3, has matured into a poised runner for trainer Eric Reed and on Saturday has a chance to win her first graded race in the Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard.

The Hillsborough, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, drew a field of 11, including possible favorite Mushka, Suwannee River winner Tottie, and Lady Shakespeare.

Sweet and Flawless won only a single race last season in 10 outings, competing primarily in stakes company while racing at eight different tracks. She was a fast-closing second in the Grade 3 Arlington Oaks, beaten a half-length, and was fourth at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Alabama.

Given a short break, Sweet and Flawless made her first start with older fillies and mares in the Grade 3 Suwannee River on Feb. 6, and was a rapidly closing fourth in that nine-furlong race, beaten a length by Tottie.

Reed said he feels the lack of early pace and the fact his horse was forced to go wide hurt her chances.

"She was the only one really picking them up at the end," Reed said, "This filly's future is really going to be at a mile and an eighth and longer on the grass. We decided to run here instead of Gulfstream because a late-closing horse has a better chance here and the turf's not as firm."

The forecast for heavy rain on Friday could mean the course will be wet for the Hillsborough.

"She's handled the Polytrack, sloppy dirt tracks," Reed said. "I don't see the footing being a problem for her."

Mushka has earned more than $1 million in 18 career starts. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 5-year-old Mushka had a terrible trip here in last year's Hillsborough but went on later in the season to win three races, including the Grade 1 Spinster through disqualification, and earned $853,802.

Tottie, undefeated in two U.S. starts, also deserves a long look, along with Lady Shakespeare, a winner of 5 of 9 starts. Roger Attfield, the trainer of Lady Shakespeare, has said his filly does not handle soft going.

* In the $75,000 Turf Dash, Musket Man, winner of the 2009 Tampa Bay Derby and more recently the seven-furlong Super Stakes locally, is slated to make his turf debut. Among his opponents are Hold the Salt, a turf stakes winner, and Probation Ready, who has won back-to-back races sprinting over the Tampa grass course.