02/10/2005 1:00AM

Virden likes Oaks distance


PHOENIX - Virden's lone loss in three career starts came the one time she sprinted. Trainer Dan McFarlane, taking over for Kurt Carlton, thinks, therefore, that the 1 1/16-mile Arizona Oaks Saturday at Turf Paradise might be right for her. The $75,000 race attracted a field of seven 3-year-old fillies.

, a daughter of the router Tactical Cat, debuted going long at Turf Paradise on Dec. 5 and rolled by the front-runners for an easy win in the mud. Heavy rains were expected in the Phoenix area going into Saturday, which could make for another off track.

Virden came back to be third in the Funallover here Dec. 7. She chased the pace in that 6 1/2-furlong race. She returned in the Jan. 22 Sun Devil at a mile and, as in her debut, bided her time early and powered home to win going away. She beat She Sings and Country Kat, two horses she will meet again Saturday. Wilson Dieguez, aboard for all three starts, keeps the call on Virden, who is owned by Dennis Weir.

Virden recently worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:12.40, which McFarlane said, "Tells me she's fit and ready."

She Sings tries to make amends after finishing second to Virden in the Sun Devil. A Southern California-based filly, she won her maiden going a mile on a wet track at Santa Anita last October, then found the Grade 1 Miesque on the Hollywood turf Nov. 26 a bit too tough. She was freshened and returned in the Sun Devil. She dueled early, opened up a big lead, and seemed on her way to victory before Virden rolled by. Casey Fusilier comes in from Southern California to ride.

Island Escape, like She Sings, is trained by Polanco and owned by the Everest Stables. Island Escape was last seen chasing champion Sweet Catomine in Santa Anita's Grade 3 Santa Ysabel. Before that she was second by a nose in the mile Corte Madera Stakes at Golden Gate. Like her stablemate, she graduated going a mile at Oak Tree. Kerwin John rides.