03/15/2007 12:00AM

Two powers vie in Florida Oaks


OLDSMAR Fla. - Autobahn Girl, a versatile filly from the Nick Zito barn who has never finished worse than second in seven career starts, will attempt to duplicate her dazzling performance in the Suncoast Stakes when she returns to Tampa Bay Downs for Saturday's $200,000 Florida Oaks.

The 1 1/16-mile Florida Oaks, which drew a field of eight 3-year-old fillies, is one of three supporting stakes to the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby on Festival Day, the highlight of the Tampa Bay Downs meet.

Autobahn Girl's chief rival in the Oaks is Cotton Blossom, who will be making her first start since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs last November. The field also includes Desire to Excel, who will be making her first start since finishing second to Cotton Blossom in the Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga last July; Dinner Break, winner of the filly division of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Championship; and Trainee, who finished second in the Suncoast after winning two straight races impressively here earlier this meeting.

Autobahn Girl won a maiden race at Belmont Park in October, then concluded her 2-year-old season with an allowance win at Churchill Downs. Off from November to January, Autobahn Girl made an auspicious 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park, winning a second-level allowance race by four lengths. Zito then shipped her here for the $75,000 Suncoast, the local prep for the Florida Oaks, which she won by three lengths.

"She's been very professional right from the beginning," Zito said from his barn in south Florida. "We didn't push her and run in stakes last season because she was still growing and filling out, and now she's a picture. We were happy to see her handle the track well in the Suncoast."

Leading rider Daniel Centeno will be back aboard Autobahn Girl, who was bred and is owned by Live Oak Plantation.

Cotton Blossom wintered in Aiken, S.C., according to her trainer, Todd Pletcher. Cotton Blossom's stablemate Octave finished second last week in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.

"She didn't get in in time to have a three-race schedule before the Kentucky Oaks, and she was a work behind Octave, who we sent to the Fair Grounds," Pletcher said. "So after she breezed a good six furlongs last week we decided to come to Tampa for the Oaks. Hopefully, she's ready to go and to run well."

John Velazquez will ride Cotton Blossom at 116 pounds.

Hillsborough: Favorites both have speed

My Typhoon makes her first start since finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf when she takes on Endeavour Stakes winner Cassydora and eight others in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes at 1o1/8 miles on the turf.

My Typhoon, trained by Bill Mott, won 2 of 6 starts last year. Both wins came in graded-stakes company. She rallied from just off the pace to win the Grade 3 Mint Julep Stakes at Churchill and led throughout the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga.

In the 1 3/8-mile Filly and Mare Turf, My Typhoon led into the stretch before weakening to sixth behind the brilliant winner, Ouija Board.

Cassydora, trained by Pletcher, made all the pace in the Endeavour as the odds-on favorite. The win was her second from two starts in the United States, and it will be interesting to see which of the favorites goes for the early lead in the Hillsborough.

* Chaotic Achiever will go for his 11th win from 15 starts on the turf when he takes on Steel the Glory, who is shooting for his fifth win in a row in the $75,000 Turf Dash at about five furlongs on the turf.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch