01/24/2008 12:00AM

Will Dearest Trickski wilt under pressure?


ARCADIA, Calif. - The improbable ascension of Dearest Trickski from a $10,000 claimer in Texas in April 2007 to a Grade 1 winner in California in December was sustained on one premise - her speed.

Dearest Trickski was almost impossible to beat last year, winning 8 of 12 starts from five to seven furlongs, including her final four races. She was never really challenged in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita in December, leading by at least a length throughout the seven furlongs.

The same scenario is unlikely to occur in Saturday's $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint for California-breds and Florida-breds over six furlongs at Santa Anita. Dearest Trickski, 4, will be tested from the start, a concern to trainer John Sadler.

"The question is, can she take more heat in front and still battle?" Sadler said.

While Dearest Trickski may face pressure from the Calder stakes winner Cher Ami and the Maryland shipper Coli Bear, both Florida-breds, she may not have to contend with Shaggy Mane, a speedy California-bred who won the 2007 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park.

Trainer Don Chatlos said earlier in the week that he is hesitant to run Shaggy Mane if wet weather continues in the days leading to the race.

"I don't know if I would run," Chatlos said. "I'd have to take a look at that track. I don't want to start off the year and have something [bad] happen."

Shaggy Mane has not started since finishing eighth over a sloppy track in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26.

"I don't think we'll have the same conditions as Monmouth," Chatlos said. "Monmouth was a mess. The jocks [at Santa Anita] won't go out there and ride if they don't think it will be good."

Dearest Trickski, a Florida-bred, is one of two leading contenders trained by Sadler, joined by Lady Gamer, a California-bred who won the minor Playa del Rey Stakes at Hollywood Park in December. Lady Gamer can lead, but Sadler does not want her dueling with Dearest Trickski.

"Dearest Trickski is quicker," he said. "I would imagine the other one would sit second.

"Dearest Trickski has been the surprise horse going up. The other mare is older and has been running against tougher horses. We'll let them sort themselves out."

Cher Ami has won five stakes in her last seven starts, all at Calder. She has set the pace in those races, but may not need to do so on Saturday, according to trainer Larry Bates.

"There are some fast horses here," Bates said. "I don't think she's one-dimensional. In her not-so-illustrious performances, I'd been doing battle with her feet. When she's 100 percent, she gives a good account of herself."

The Filly and Mare Sprint will be Cher Ami's first start on a synthetic track.

The field also includes the Aqueduct stakes winner More Angels, a Florida-bred who ran in claiming races in Southern California at this time last year; and the California-bred Tiz Elemental, who was second by a nose in the 2007 Sunshine Millions Oaks at Santa Anita.

Trained by Carla Gaines, Tiz Elemental is making her first start since winning the Melair Stakes at Hollywood Park last April. Tiz Elemental was sidelined with a bone chip in a knee last year.