10/20/2004 11:00PM

A well-rested Culinary looks to topple favorites

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The last horse to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies who had run in the Arlington-Washington Lassie was Caressing. She returned $96 to win.

Culinary may not be as big a price as Caressing, but she may be just as live a play for those looking to beat the favorites in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park.

Culinary, a daughter of El Amante, has won both of her career starts for trainer Michael Stidham and owner Jack Smith. She will come into the Juvenile Fillies with six weeks between starts, but Stidham said that is by design.

Stidham said Culinary is a "light-bodied filly." She won the Arlington-Washington Lassie 38 days after winning her maiden. Stidham had nominated Culinary to the Alcibiades at Keeneland on Oct. 8, but decided to skip it.

"We thought this was the best route, rather than trying to fit in a really tough race," said Stidham, who will be making his Breeders' Cup debut. "It would have been the toughest race she had to date."

Culinary won her maiden at first asking Aug. 12, winning a one-mile maiden race by 11 lengths. Her final time of 1:41.55 was extremely slow. Stidham said there was a period of time when Arlington's main track became deeper and slower because of a lack of rain.

"The times were really slow because of the deeper, cuppier surface, and that was the condition of the track when she broke her maiden," Stidham said. "If you watch the race it looked like a gallop. Her head was never turned loose at anytime and she kept widening."

In the Lassie, Culinary rallied from sixth position early to win by two lengths in a time of 1:36.98. The filly she beat, Runway Model, came back to win the Alcibiades and will also run in the Juvenile Fillies.

"In the Lassie, she dragged Carlos [Marquez] up there without being asked," Stidham said. "By the half-mile pole she's pulling him towards the leaders. The ease in which she did it was impressive against better horses."

Stidham said he hopes having a fresher horse entering the Juvenile Fillies will give him an edge over contenders like Sweet Catomine, Balletto, and Runway Model.

"We're not under any illusions that we don't have to really step forward to be competitive with those fillies," Stidham said. "We're hoping we're coming to our best number and they've already hit their best numbers."

Like Stidham, Marquez will be making his Breeders' Cup debut. Stidham said that although he and his owner discussed seeking a "name rider," they decided to stick with Marquez.

"Our opinion was Carlos had worked with this filly all summer, breezed her several times, and had ridden her well in both of her races," Stidham said. "We just felt like Carlos is a qualified rider so why not stick with a rider who knows the filly and has confidence in her."

* Trainer Mark Hennig confirmed that Pat Day, who has won 12 Breeders' Cup races including the Juvenile Fillies twice, will ride Play With Fire.