01/29/2004 1:00AM

Wild Speed, Sea Span lead pair of stakes


OLDSMAR, Fla. - It's a double feature on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.

In the first of two stakes, Sandpiper Stakes winner Wild Speed will attempt to maintain her perfect record at Tampa Bay Downs in the $60,000 Gasparilla Stakes. In the $60,000 Manatee Stakes, Minaret winner Sea Span will go after her third straight local win while facing Canadian stakes runner Mille Feville.

For Wild Speed, a daughter of Forest Wildcat, the Gasparilla is the latest chapter for a talented but inexperienced filly. She has been a work in progress for trainer Javier Contreras and jockey Derek Bell since the stable moved here from Maryland late last year.

When Wild Speed made her first local start, a five-furlong allowance sprint, she was very nervous in the gate and broke slowly. She quickly got her feet under her when racing into the turn, then passed the leaders coming out of the turn on her way to a 3 1/2-length win.

"She was very edgy and nervous in the gate that first start and simply didn't have her mind on things when the start came," Bell said. "But to her credit, she didn't panic and run off. She allowed me to get her settled, then ran a pretty big race, all things considered.

"After that race, Javier did some work with her, got her settled down, and when she went to the gate for the Sandpiper, she was all business and a total professional."

In the six-furlong Sandpiper, Wild Speed was content to track Crafty Tears through early fractions of 22.33 and 45.97 seconds. Wild Speed rallied past her and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

"She's a very smart filly, and Javier's done a good job with her," Bell said. "She's nice to ride, because she'll do anything you ask when you call on her. She's impressed me since the first time I got on her."

Crafty Tears will be back in the Gasparilla, trying to carry her speed an additional furlong. Bird Chatter, her stablemate in the blistering-hot barn of Ronnie Allen Sr., also deserves a long look. Allen has already taken three stakes this meeting, and Bird Chatter romped to an 8 1/4-length win on Jan. 11 in her first start since September.

Finnerty's Frolic and Bangbangonthedoor, fourth and fifth in the Sandpiper, also merit consideration in the Gasparilla. Bangbangonthedoor is a late closer who should like Saturday's added distance.

In the Manatee, Sea Span will also try to carry her speed an extra furlong. In the six-furlong Minaret, Sea Span dueled through some very fast fractions to midstretch with Mooji Moo, then pulled away late to win in 1:10.42. That victory followed a sharp win here in a 5 1/2-furlong Minaret prep.

Mille Feville, a close fourth behind Harmony Lodge in the Grade 3 The First Lady Handicap at Gulfstream in her 2004 debut, ships up for trainer Roger Attfield and tops the challengers in the 14-horse Manatee field.