02/21/2008 12:00AM

Vodka looking for her best in Kyoto Kinen


Vodka will attempt to redeem her increasingly woozy reputation at Kyoto on Saturday in the $1.13 million Kyoto Kinen, a 1 3/8-mile Grade 1 contest that has served as a prep for both the Dubai Duty Free and the Dubai Sheema Classic.

The surprise winner of last year's Japanese Derby, the 4-year-old Vodka has stumbled four times since those heroics, most recently when she ran 11th in December's season-ending Arima Kinen. A repeat, however, of her fourth-place finish in the Japan Cup behind last year's Kyoto Kinen winner and Japanese Horse of the Year, Admire Moon, would be good enough to take this year's watered-down event.

Hirofumi Shii will ride for trainer Katsuhiko Sumii.

Dream Passport has been mixing it up in top-class company without success since winning the 1 1/4-mile Grade 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai in September 2006. Two lengths second to Deep Impact in the 2006 Japan Cup, he was only 14th in last November's Japan Cup but improved to be sixth in the Arima Kinen. Admire Fuji, a Grade 2 winner going 1 1/2 miles at Kyoto two years ago, is a threat off his Jan. 5 score in the 1 1/4-mile Grade 3 Nakayama Kimpai.

A good effort by Vodka will earn her a trip to the Dubai Duty Free, but there was bad news in Japan this week when champion filly Daiwa Scarlet was declared out of Sunday's February Stakes with an eye injury. She was to have used that one-mile contest as a prep for either the Dubai World Cup or the Dubai Duty Free but will now stay home.