03/15/2012 11:53AM

Tampa Bay: Arena Elvira out to keep winning ways going

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Arena Elvira will attempt to start off 2012 just the way she ended 2011 and keep her winning streak intact Saturday in the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla.

Eight older fillies and mares, including a Marty Wolfson entry, are entered in the Wayward Lass, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race that anchors an 11-race Saturday card. First post is 12:27 p.m. Eastern, with the Wayward Lass going at 4:10.

Arena Elvira, owned by Carolyn Wilson and trained by Bill Mott, has been training smartly at Payson Park in recent weeks since concluding her 4-year-old season with a gritty victory as the favorite in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs last Thanksgiving. That triumph was her fourth in a row, and her seventh from her last nine starts, and it gave her Hall of Fame trainer hope that further development could make her one of the top older mares in North America this year.

Arena Elvira, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare who has knocked out nearly $400,000 with a highly effective stalking style, figures to be a stout favorite in the Wayward Lass after drawing post 1 while attracting the services of the leading rider at the Tampa meet, Leandro Goncalves.

Either half of the Wolfson entry of Dash Dot Dash and Canadian Mistress might provide the strongest challenge. Both have excellent early speed and stakes experience. It’s plausible that, given their similar running styles, Wolfson will scratch one of them in the hopes that the remaining half of the entry will loom a major wire-to-wire threat.

Two of the fringe players are R Gypsy Gold, a minor stakes winner shipping in for Todd Pletcher, and Dundalk Dust, the 2010 Falls City winner who goes turf-to-dirt in her second start for Chad Stewart, who assumed her training from Chris Block for the winter.

“She’ll go back to Chris in Chicago this summer,” said Stewart, the Ocala-based trainer now handling the 5-year-old Illinois-bred mare. “We were hoping for it to come up a lighter spot, but she’s training really well, and I think she’ll run better than she did in the Endeavour,” in which she was sixth.

Rounding out the field are Garota Carioca, Rare Bit, and Taylors Irish.

Besides the 28th running of the Wayward Lass, a solid Saturday card also includes a $30,500 handicap for older turf sprinters (race 10) and two allowances (races 2 and 7). The Tampa meet runs through May 6.