03/21/2007 11:00PM

Victorina's Big A visit likely to be lucrative


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - For handicappers who specialize in filly-and-mare sprints, Aqueduct is the center of the racing universe on this first Saturday of spring. The Grade 3 Cicada was rescheduled after last weekend's medley of sleet, snow, and ice, and the silver lining is that it winds up on the same bill as the Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap, creating the first graded-stakes doubleheader in New York in four months.

For years, both races were run at seven furlongs on the main track. But last year, due to the extended inner-track meet, they were shortened to six furlongs. The inner track cannot accommodate a seven-furlong race.

Trivia buffs armed with an American Racing Manual will tell you Meadow Stable's Cicada was the champion handicap mare of 1963, and among her four stakes victories was the Distaff in the stakes-record time of 1:21.60.

The ARM will also tell you that since Beyer Speed Figures have been published for the Distaff, par for the last 15 renewals is 101. The fastest Distaff figure belongs to Devil's Orchid, who in 1991 lowered the stakes mark to 1:21 under Russell Baze and earned a scorching Beyer of 115.

Sixteen years and thousands of wins later, Baze has a fine chance to win another Distaff. This time he rides Victorina, who has been flown in from Northern California by the connections of Lost in the Fog, the late champion sprinter of 2005.

Because Grade 2 races at six furlongs for female sprinters are a rarity and go far toward increasing a mare's breeding value, Hello Lucky and Maryfield have also shipped across the country to run in the Distaff.

Maryfield's figures of 106 and 108 in consecutive starts at Hollywood Park last year are tops in the field, but she hasn't come close to that level in seven subsequent starts. Her form nose-dived in the recent Las Flores Handicap, when she faded to seventh after showing her usual early speed.

Hello Lucky, who had gone winless for a year and a half, was the beneficiary of a pace meltdown among Maryfield and three other early speeds in the Las Flores, when she opportunistically rallied from fifth to win the Grade 3 sprint at 33-1.

Victorina won last out with a Beyer of 96, identical to Hello Lucky's number in the Las Flores. Even though it came in a restricted stakes at Turf Paradise, Victorina's effort seems at least as impressive as Hello Lucky's and perhaps more so, because she moved four wide on the turn in roughly 22 seconds.

The well-traveled Victorina has a splendid 6-2-0 record from 8 starts at six furlongs across the country. One of the runner-up finishes was against Hystericalady, who stretched out and won the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks (with a 110 Beyer) in her next start.

"I've never run a horse over the inner track," said Victorina's trainer, Greg Gilchrist. "But she's not the kind of filly that needs to take her track with her. She's no stranger to mile racetracks that are speed favoring."

Victorina should have good position behind a sizzling early pace battle among some combination of Maryfield, May Day Vow, Magnolia Jackson, and Oprah Winney. Oprah Winney comes off wins in the Interborough and the Barbara Fritchie with clear leads at the pace call each time; this is shaping up to be a tougher scenario.

Golden Dreamer helped by re-draw

The cast of 3-year-old fillies in the Cicada is essentially the same as last week, but it became a potentially different race in terms of position at the re-draw, when early speeds Golden Dreamer and Control System flip-flopped positions.

Golden Dreamer, who had the rail last week, and whose only poor race on Lasix was from the rail when fourth at 1-2 in the Dearly Precious, is now in post 3. Moreover, last Saturday she would have been running back in eight days after a peak race against males, and the extra week works in her favor.

Control System, who has won her two career starts by a combined 20 lengths, had post 4 originally, but now it is she who must break from the fence. Control System has never been behind another rival, but she hasn't had to run exceptionally fast fractions to enjoy that position. What happens if the more experienced - and now more rested - Golden Dreamer outsprints her for the early lead, and perhaps tightens things up a bit down the backstretch?

Another factor to consider is that Control System has had to ship in twice from her Laurel base.

"I wish I could say more about the postponement, but the truth is I'm not sure how it's going to affect her," said trainer Michael Trombetta. "Her first two starts haven't surprised me. She's been one we've liked for a while."

Winning a graded stakes third time out isn't easy, and for the promising Control System, a tough task may have become tougher because of the postponement.