09/18/2002 11:00PM

Wanted: Spring form


Summer officially ends on Tuesday. No horse will be happier to see the seasons change than the 3-year-old filly Maliziosa.

During the spring, Maliziosa showed great promise, winning back-to-back turf stakes in Kentucky and Illinois while earning Beyer Speed Figures in the low 90's.

But when trainer Bill Mott stepped her up to face classier company during the summer, Maliziosa suddenly went sour, finishing off the board in three consecutive starts in California and New York.

Maliziosa will attempt to regain her good form and rebuild her confidence in Saturday's $100,000 Christiana Stakes at Delaware Park. She will race uncoupled with stablemate Four Pennies in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies.

Mott is wheeling back Maliziosa just 13 days after she ran seventh in the Grade 1 Garden City at Belmont Park. Although Maliziosa raced near the back of the pack and showed no rally at odds of 51-1, her performance may have been better than it first appears. She was beaten less than three lengths by the winner, Wonder Again, and earned a 90 Beyer, close to her peak performances in her wins at Churchill Downs and Arlington in May.

Before the Garden City, Maliziosa hadn't done much running at all, finishing seventh in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park and sixth in the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga.

Much like Maliziosa, Ntombi is attempting to bounce back from an uncharacteristically poor performance. Ntombi won her first three races on the grass, including the Hilltop at Pimlico in May, but was a dull eighth over a yielding course at Belmont in the Grade 3 Sands Point at Belmont a month later. She will be making her first start since mid-June, but as with any horse trained by Michael Dickinson, she must be considered ready to fire off a long layoff.

Affirmed Dancer also launches her comeback from an extended vacation. She hasn't raced since finishing second with an 86 Beyer in the one-mile Revidere at Monmouth in late May.

Pillow Talk, trained by Graham Motion, has run well in two previous starts over Delaware's turf course. Most recently, she won an allowance, earning an 84 Beyer. In her only previous stakes appearance, Pillow Talk finished seventh in the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga in late July.

Motion has also entered Alternate, a three-time winner this year and second in a pair of graded stakes, the Monmouth Oaks and Delaware Oaks, in her last two starts. But Motion said he would run Alternate only if the race is moved to the main track.

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