03/27/2003 12:00AM

A turf race of their own

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NEW ORLEANS - The camellias are blooming in New Orleans, and the meet has reached its final weekend. This used to be Sarah Lane's Oates time of year.

One of the best Louisiana-bred grass mares ever, Sarah Lane's Oates won the closing-day Red Camellia Handicap here three years in a row. Sarah Lane's Oates is a broodmare now, but Saturday's featured race, for 3-year-old Louisiana-bred fillies on turf, bears her name.

This is the first year 3-year-old statebred fillies have their own turf stakes. Last season, You'llbeinmyheart, a filly, had to beat males in the Gentilly Handicap to pick up a turf stakes win. Her sister, Destiny Calls, will have things easier when she faces 11 female opponents in the Sarah Lane's Oates, which is contested at about one mile on turf.

Destiny Calls, bred by Vickie and Bryan Krantz and owned by Vickie Krantz, began her career with a pair of wins for trainer Gary Palmisano. Destiny Calls looked good winning a training race here on Feb. 5 and was an easy winner of her career debut nine days later. She stretched from a six-furlong dirt sprint to a two-turn turf route and won her second start, but this time only by a neck.

By With Approval out of the Miswaki mare Longue Vue, Destiny Calls has a pedigree that looks more Kentucky than Louisiana. Palmisano, who has contracted Shane Sellers to ride on Saturday, isn't convinced Destiny Calls has all the talent You'llbeinmyheart had, but she has enough upside to be a factor in her stakes debut. Sellers must deal with post 10, but has proven over and over again that he knows how to save ground in grass races here.

But the filly to beat is Calleybluebayou, who might have won back to back stakes had she not run into a racetrack bias here March 9. She struggled to win her maiden, finally breaking through here late last year, but has put everything together since February. She was 40-1 when she romped in the $100,000 Green Oaks at Delta Downs on Feb. 23, and as a closer in a sprint race, ran into the teeth of a speed bias when she finished third on March 9 in the $75,000 Battler Star. Calleybluebayou has never tried turf, but is bred to love it, and ran the best race of her career in her only previous two-turn try.

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