01/26/2006 12:00AM

Winning connections send Promenade Girl


When you're talking about stakes races in Maryland, the most potent combination is clearly trainer Larry Murray and owner Sondra Bender.

In 2002, Murray and Bender combined to win seven stakes at Laurel Park and Pimlico and won seven more added-money events in 2003.

Over the past three seasons, Murray-trained horses have gone 11 for 35 in stakes at Laurel - a success rate of 31 percent - with a return on investment of $2.61.

Murray and Bender will be favored to add to their already impressive credentials in Saturday's $85,000 Nellie Morse Stakes with Promenade Girl.

The co-highweight in a field of nine fillies and mares, Promenade Girl won two restricted stakes at Laurel last year and has never been worse than second in four starts over the main track there. She's also 2 for 2 at the one-mile distance of the Nellie Morse.

The 4-year-old Promenade Girl has been freshened for nearly a month since recording the best Beyer Speed Figure of her career - 104 - for an 8 1/4-length romp in the mud against open company in an optional claiming race.

Fleet Ballado and Ms Louisa Quatorse, who have a combined record of 4 for 6 at Laurel, are both dangerous in a spot where they each carry five pounds less than the favorite.

The 5-year-old Fleet Ballado was a six-time winner in 2005, including back-to-back races at Laurel 16 days apart in December.

Ms Louisa Quatorse, a 4-year-old daughter of Preakness winner Louis Quatorze, has won two of her last three starts while posting solid Beyers of 97 and 95. She beat optional claimers by four lengths going a mile in her only previous start at Laurel.

Princess Pelona, a sprinter nearly all of last season, adapted well when stretched out to a mile on Jan. 5. She led wire to wire against high-priced optional claimers while earning a 91 Beyer that ranks as her best figure in her last 10 starts.

Ask Queenie, co-highweight at 124 pounds, was a three-time stakes winner against restricted company at Suffolk Downs in 2005, including twice on turf. She has won both of her starts since coming to Laurel last month and now gets tested for class by stepping up to an open stakes.

Key Storm was no better than fourth in two stakes going seven furlongs last season, but she was sharp winning a 5 1/2-furlong optional claimer on Jan. 1 and her trainer, Howie Wolfendale, excels with runners switching from sprints to routes.