12/28/2006 12:00AM

Two defections leave Toll Taker as the one


MIAMI - Trainer Tim Hills fully expected to face Grade 1 winners Splendid Blended and Malibu Mint when he sent out Toll Taker for Saturday's $100,000 Chaposa Springs Handicap at Calder. But when Hills picked up the overnight he discovered, much to his surprise and delight, that neither of those rivals had been entered and Toll Taker had suddenly become the one to beat in the Grade 3 sprint.

Toll Taker is coming off a second-place finish behind Splendid Blended four weeks ago in the Marina De Chavon Stakes. The effort followed a game nose victory over Emerald Earrings going 1 1/16 miles in the Honey Bee Stakes at the Meadowlands for Toll Taker's first and only win of the season.

"It's a beautiful spot," Hills said in describing the seven-furlong Chaposa Springs. "She breezed real well the other day, I thought her prep for the race was excellent, and she seems to be cycling back to her top form at the moment. And with Malibu Mint and Splendid Blended not in there, the race couldn't have come up any better for us. Even the post position is perfect."

Hill said that from post 6 in the six-horse field, Toll Taker should be able to stalk the Allen Jerkens-trained Grecian Lover, the opponent he considers most dangerous.

Grecian Lover and Toll Taker are the co-highweights at 116 pounds. Rafael Bejarano will again take the mount on Toll Taker, while Cornelio Velasquez handles Grecian Lover for the first time.

Grecian Lover has had a busy campaign, winning twice from 14 starts with both her victories coming against optional claiming company, including a race in Florida at Gulfstream Park in March. The 4-year-old Grecian Lover was also second in the Grade 2 Bed o' Roses and fourth in three other Grade 2 events this year.

Annabill, a horse for the course with 6 wins and 4 seconds in 13 starts at Calder, has never been better but will get a class check making her graded stakes debut against older rivals. The 3-year-old Annabill has won her last two starts, including an overnight stakes at seven furlongs on Nov. 25, and earned a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure beating optional claiming foes on Dec. 9.

The remainder of the field consists of Midwest invader For Gillian, who races with blinkers for the first time, the

recently stakes-placed Pleasant Laughter, and the ambitiously placed maiden My Monarchos.