08/08/2005 12:00AM

Ticker Tape needs a pick-me-up

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Winless in three starts this year, Ticker Tape will try to get back on track in Wednesday's Osunitas Handicap.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Ticker Tape can salvage her sullied reputation with a win in Wednesday's $75,000 Osunitas Handicap at Del Mar.

A finalist for outstanding turf female of 2004, is winless in three starts this year. Her most recent start was an eighth in the Grade 1 John Mabee Handicap here July 23.

"I will be crushed if she doesn't show up on Wednesday," said trainer Jim Cassidy.

Cassidy blamed the loss in the Mabee on an infection, which was found in a post-race blood test. Ticker Tape had a high white blood cell count, Cassidy said.

"I'm hoping that was the reason," he said. "She was training fine enough to do a little better in the Mabee. Maybe she had this infection. We still don't know where it came from."

Cassidy said the quick turnaround from the Mabee does not concern him. "She's never been one of those that needs a great deal of time between races," he said.

The Osunitas is run over 1 1/16 miles on turf and has drawn 12 fillies and mares. The field will be limited to 10 starters because of the narrow course. The Osunitas is restricted to nonwinners of a stakes with a winner's share of $50,000 or more, other than statebred races, at a mile or farther this year.

Owned by Forging Oaks Farm, Ticker Tape can win if she runs back to her second in the Grade 3 Royal Heroine Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 3, her best performance this year. Last year, Ticker Tape won 5 of 10 starts, including two Grade 1 stakes - the American Oaks at Hollywood Park and Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

Cassidy said a victory Wednesday would give him the confidence to put Ticker Tape in the preps for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

"The long-range plan is the Breeders' Cup," Cassidy said.

Ticker Tape will face a challenge in the Osunitas. The field includes two stakes winners from the spring - Joyful Ballad and Scrofa.

won the Irish O'Brien Stakes on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita and has not started since finishing third in the Fran's Valentine Stakes at Hollywood Park in April.

Cotopaxi, who is making her U.S. stakes debut, won an allowance race over a mile on turf in her last start, which came at Hollywood Park in July.