12/26/2009 12:00AM

Tough acts to follow at Mountaineer


Syriana s Song, based in New Orleans this winter, and the Chicago-based filly Mindy Queen will try to prove their first visit to Mountaineer Racetrack was no fluke when they challenge defending champion Royale Michele in Tuesday night s $75,000 New Year s Eve Stakes.

The six-furlong sprint drew a field of 11 fillies and mares, led by Royale Michele, who stands out on back class after winning the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park last February and finishing a close third in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct in March.

A month ago, however, the 3-year-old Mindy Queen, whose previous claim to fame was winning the Assiniboia Downs Oaks, stole the spotlight. She made her first trip to Mountaineer and upset Royale Michele in a six-furlong allowance, finishing three lengths in front of the 1-5 favorite. The 96 Beyer Speed Figure Mindy Queen earned was 14 points higher than her previous career best, so she may be candidate to bounce off that big effort.

Syriana s Song was sensational in her only local appearance, which came in September. She came from slightly off the early pace to romp by 14 lengths, earning a career-best 103 Beyer.

Although she has been off since early November, Syriana s Song is likely to fire fresh. Her trainer, Tom Amoss, is 5 for 14 (36 percent) with female sprinters returning from a break of 31 to 60 days the past two seasons, according to DRF s Formulator.

The other horse in the field who has shown a liking for the course is Champagne Taste. A 4-year-old based in Kentucky with trainer Akiko Gothard, Champagne Taste is 4 for 4 over Mountaineer s main track. But she was badly beaten in her only two stakes appearance this season, both on synthetic surfaces. In her last two races locally, Champagne Taste was in front after the first six furlongs, including the 1 1/16-mile Autumn Leaves, a race she dominated in October.

East Breaks merits respect after winning at four different tracks this season, including Churchill Downs and Saratoga. She steps up to stakes company after winning a second-level optional $14,000 claimer at Penn National.