05/28/2008 12:00AM

Ballado's Thunder should be out front


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If only one of them already had won a stakes race, picking the winner in the $50,400 allowance feature would be made easier Friday at Churchill Downs. But most of the field has earned black type, giving a difficult outlook to the highlight of the twilight program.

Making the handicapping task a bit simpler is the fact that one of those stakes winners, Nice Inheritance, "won't be making the trip," owner-trainer Steve Asmussen said Wednesday. Nice Inheritance, coming off a runaway victory last weekend in the Top Corsage Stakes at Louisiana Downs, figured as one of the favorites in the eighth of 10 Friday races, which is scheduled for a mile on turf and is restricted to fillies and mares that have not won $18,400 three times "other than" since last July 4.

With the defection of Nice Inheritance, Ballado's Thunder looks like the horse to beat for WinStar Farm and trainer Bill Mott. In a race that shapes up with very little pace, Ballado's Thunder, with Robby Albarado to ride, may have a tactical advantage as the controlling speed. A former Southern California regular, the 5-year-old mare faced standouts such as Nashoba's Key, Balance, and Hystericalady before moving East.

Ballado's Thunder sports two notable triumphs in her 18-race career: the restricted Santa Lucia Stakes at Santa Anita in April 2007 and an allowance score last month on the Keeneland turf.

One of the prime candidates to run down Ballado's Thunder is Swingit, winner of the 2007 Edgewood Stakes over the Churchill turf. A confirmed stretch-runner, Swingit faced extremely tough company in her last two races at Keeneland, partly helping to explain why she finished eighth in both. Trained by Hal Wiggins, Swingit was overmatched by the likes of Rutherienne and Precious Kitten in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley on April 12, then 12 days later by Communique and others in the Grade 3 Bewitch. She stands to benefit from what amounts to a major drop in class Friday.

The other starters in the Friday feature with stakes wins to their credit are Trainee, a recent Merrill Scherer claim who won a restricted race at Tampa Bay Downs in April 2007; Water Gap, winner of the Firecracker at Mountaineer Park in July 2007; and Our Dancing Babe, winner of the Valdale at Turfway Park in February 2007.

Jill Indy Pulpit and V.I.P. Princess round out the field.

First post for the Friday card is 2:45 p.m. Eastern.