10/03/2001 11:00PM

Zonk has edge on Mystic Lady


Few horses have raced at as many different venues as Mystic Lady. Over the past 12 months, she has run near the Atlantic Ocean in Miami and New Jersey, in the mountains of upstate New York, and in cities as big as New Orleans and as small as Hot Springs, Ark.

To be precise, trainer Mark Hennig has taken Mystic Lady on a tour of 10 different racetracks since last November. She adds Philadelphia Park to her long list of travel destinations Saturday when she heads a field of seven 3-year-old fillies for the $250,000 Cotillion.

The Grade 2 Cotillion at 1 1/16 miles tops an outstanding card that features seven other stakes, including the $150,000 Gallant Bob Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds. The other six stakes - four on the dirt and two on turf - are for Pennsylvania-breds and are worth $50,000 apiece.

Mystic Lady, who will be ridden by Eibar Coa, has won four of nine starts this year and just over $500,000, highlighted by graded stakes victories at Gulfstream, Oaklawn, and Monmouth.

Although Mystic Lady's credentials are impressive, a Philadelphia Park-based filly has already proven she can beat her. In their only head-to-head meeting, Zonk defeated Mystic Lady by a length in the Delaware Oaks on July 21. In her only start since then, Zonk finished last in the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont.

But that flop occurred in Zonk's first attempt over the turf, and she ought to run better on dirt. Zonk displayed her fitness with a best-of-11 five-furlong move for trainer John Servis last week. Mike McCarthy, who has ridden Zonk to victories both times he has ridden her, will be back aboard.

Based on Beyer Speed Figures, New York invaders Transcendental and Celtic Melody merit consideration. Transcendental, trained by James Bond, earned a 99 Beyer Figure - one point higher than Mystic Lady's career best - while finishing fourth in her first stakes, the Grade 1 Gazelle last month. Celtic Melody has run back-to-back Beyers in the mid-90's winning a pair of allowance sprints. She stretches out to a route, a move that's often successful for trainer James Jerkens.

City Zip is entered in the Gallant Bob, but is more likely to run in either the Kelso or the Forest Hills, both in New York. If City Zip scratches, Sam Lord's Castle becomes the most intriguing entrant. In the spring, Sam Lord's Castle finished a nose behind Griffinite in the Grade 3 Lafayette at Keeneland, but has been idle since finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct in early May.