03/03/2005 12:00AM

Tampa Bay: Grab Bag the favorite


Grab Bag was dismissed at 7-1 when she won the seven-furlong Manatee Stakes in her first start since May, but don't look for that kind of price Saturday, when she will be the probable favorite in a field of nine fillies and mares in Saturday's $60,000 Wayward Lass stakes at 1 1/16 miles over the main track.

Tommy Turner, who handled Grab Bag last time out, will have the mount again as she seeks her seventh win from 14 outings.

A 6-year-old New York-bred, had been off since last May when she made her 2005 debut in the Manatee on Feb. 12, but a series of solid workouts at Palm Beach training center had her fit. Grab Bag stalked the leaders in hand for five furlongs, then ran down favored Ebony Breeze to win by a length while covering the distance in 1:24.22.

Last season, Grab Bag made only two starts, including a third in the Cut the Charm at Calder. Earlier in her career, Grab Bag scored four straight wins in New York while climbing the allowance ladder. In 2003, she finished second as the favorite in the $100,000 Schenectady Handicap at Belmont and second, beaten a nose, in the 1 1/16-mile Stage Door Betty Handicap at Calder.

Slews Final Answer, who won the six-furlong Minaret here, returns to Tampa after finishing fourth behind Madcap Escapade in the Grade 2 Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream. Trained by Bill Mott, Slews Final Answer makes her first start around two turns and will have leading rider T.D. Houghton aboard as she goes for her ninth career win.

There looks to be plenty of company up front in the Wayward Lass, including Double Scoop, who used fine speed to score by more than 10 lengths in the Silver Bell Stakes at Calder; Code Song, who lost all chance to use her speed after a slow start in the Manatee; and Diablosangeleyes, who led into the stretch in that same race before fading to fourth.