03/09/2010 12:00AM

Ampart Ridge lands in sweet spot


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Gary Contessa seemingly could not have hand-picked a better spot for his New York-bred filly Ampart Ridge to make her first start against open company than Wednesday's $43,000 first-level allowance feature at Aqueduct.


Ampart Ridge faces eight rivals in the two-turn mile race, the majority of whom are coming out of low-level claiming races. Ampart Ridge, a daughter of Cactus Ridge, is coming out of a nose loss in a second-level allowance race for statebred fillies and mares.

"What a great race for her," said Contessa, who enters the final 14 inner-track cards with a one-win lead over Todd Pletcher in the trainer standings. "I think it came up rather soft. The horse is doing really good. She's an above-average New York-bred filly."

Ampart Ridge has raced nine times, never finishing worse than third. She is 2 for 2 at a mile and has a win and a second in two starts around two turns. In her last race, she was just run down by Bankers Buy late after setting the pace under Jorge Chavez, who is back aboard Wednesday.

"That filly doesn't have to go to the lead," Contessa said. "She's 100 percent racehorse. She's got more determination than most horses I have in my barn."

Breaking from post 8 in the nine-horse field, Chavez will likely put Ampart Ridge into the race from the outset. She figures to find Indy's Forum, part of a Randi Persaud-trained entry, there as well.

Autumnlady is taking a class hike out of the starter handicap ranks, but her two races around two turns are good enough to make her competitive in this spot. On Jan. 13, in her first start for owner-trainer Dennis Lalman, who claimed her for $10,000, Autumnlady won a starter handicap at a mile and 70 yards. She came back 11 days later in a sprint race against males and finished fifth. Twelve days after that, Autumnlady finished second in another starter handicap around two turns against females.

"When I first got her she had a few little issues with her muscles in her rear end," Lalman said. "But she's doing really good now, and I think she should be right there."

Gold Record, who will be starting on dirt for just the second time in her career, and Spell Check, who won a six-furlong maiden race off a 10-month layoff but who has run well around two turns, are both contenders in this race.