05/15/2008 12:00AM

All nine too sharp to safely toss out

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BALTIMORE - Seven won their last race, and two were narrowly beaten when second. Good luck narrowing down the third leg of the $1 million guaranteed pick four at Pimlico, where a field of nine in-form fillies and mares will clash Saturday in the race before the Preakness, the Grade 2 Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes.

Where, exactly, to start?

Buy the Barrel arguably was the most impressive in her last race, a 5o3/4-length victory that translated to a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in the Bayakoa Stakes during closing week of the Oaklawn Park meet. Trained by Larry Jones and ridden by Gabriel Saez, Buy the Barrel may come the slightest of favorites when she breaks from post 7 in the $150,000 duPont Distaff, which is run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Another starter coming off a 97 Beyer is Peach Flambe, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare trained by Mark Hennig. Competing primarily in statebred company over the winter at Gulfstream Park, Peach Flambe (post 3) showed steady improvement in capping a productive meet by winning the restricted Cicada Stakes on April 19.

Drawn to her inside are Altesse (post 1) and Runway Rosie (post 2), who staged a ferocious stretch battle three weeks ago in a 1 1/8-mile overnight stakes at Aqueduct. Altesse won that duel by a head over Runway Rosie, an odds-on favorite that day.

The other starters completing the deep cast are Bear Now (post 4), a multiple graded winner coming off a narrow defeat as the favorite in her seasonal debut at her home track, Woodbine, for Reade Baker, the trainer of Preakness contender Kentucky Bear; Cash's Girl (post 5), who earned a 95 Beyer in recently winning a Delaware Park sprint stakes for the Cash Is King Stable and trainer Tim Ritchey, who three years ago teamed to win the Preakness with Afleet Alex; Lexi Star (post 6), the Maryland-bred winner of the restricted Geisha at Laurel in December, and, oddly enough, the restricted Geisha at Pimlico last month; Silver Knockers (post 8), a run-off winner of a Gulfstream allowance last out for Nick Zito; and Wow Me Free (post 9), 2 for 2, both of them stakes, since Kiaran McLaughlin assumed her training.

The duPont, which dates to 1992, had been known as the Pimlico Distaff until 2006. It goes as the 11th race and is the third leg in a pick four that ends with the Preakness.