Champion Perfect Sting makes her 2001 debut in the Black Helen Handicap.

Champion Perfect Sting makes her 2001 debut in the Black Helen Handicap.

Barbara D. Livingston

Eclipse Champion Returns in Black Helen

Stronach Stables 2000 Eclipse champion turf mare Perfect Sting will make her first start of the year in the $200,000 Black Helen Handicap (gr. IIT) Saturday at Hialeah Park. A field of 10 fillies and mares will contest the 1 1/16 mile event.

Trained by Joe Orseno, Perfect Sting makes her first start since defeating an international field in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. I) at Churchill Downs in November. The now 5-year-old daughter of Red Ransom had completed a near perfect season of five stakes wins and a second in many starts. Orseno also entered an entrymate with Perfect Sting, 4-year-old Cherry Flambe.

Despite her imposing presence, there will be plenty of players who see the champion vulnerable off the layoff, as evidenced by the presence of Twilite Stable's Gaviola and Kinloch Stable's Spook Express in this outstanding field.

Gaviola also had a strong season last year as she reeled off six consecutive victories, including two stakes at Saratoga and the Garden City Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) at Belmont. The daughter of Gaviola appeared to tail off at the end of the season when sixth at odds-on in the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland in October.

Spook Express is a 7-year-old South African-bred and twice a champion there before being purchased privately and placed in training with Tom Skiffington for the 1999 season. Spook Express on her American debut at Hialeah in the 1999 Columbiana Handicap, but suffered a fractured ankle in her next start at Saratoga, winning an allowance test.

Completing the field: Megans Bluff; Laurica; Lucky Lune; Iftiraas; Clearly a Queen; and Dinner Partner.