04/20/2007 12:00AM

Ciao may fly under radar in Appalachian


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Horses coming off stakes wins don't necessarily deserve to be favorites in their next starts, but that seems to be the case Sunday with the Appalachian Stakes. Three fillies regarded as perhaps the top contenders in the $100,000 grass fixture at Keeneland were impressive winners of minor stakes races last out, and those successes are part of what makes the Appalachian a very interesting race.

Audacious Chloe, Rutherienne, and Ciao are the three fillies entered off stakes wins, and of those, Ciao might draw the least amount of attention, at least if name power means anything. Audacious Chloe, winner of the Gaily Gaily at Gulfstream Park in her last, and Rutherienne, winner of the Cherokee Frolic at Calder, are trained, respectively, by Todd Pletcher and Christophe Clement, two of the biggest names in the sport.

Meanwhile, Ciao will have shipped in from Chicago, where her trainer, Frank Kirby, long has been a household name on his home circuit, but not on a national level. Kirby shrugs off as irrelevant any such comparisons, and he is sending Ciao to Keeneland with a strong belief the filly can emerge best in a highly competitive field.

"She looks good, she's grown some, and I really like the way she's trained up to this," he said. "We've been pointing her for a big campaign this year."

A homebred Lear Fan filly owned by Kirby's longtime client, Iron County Farms, Ciao ended her 2-year-old campaign with a victory in the Caressing Handicap on Nov. 25, closing day of the Churchill Downs fall meet. Kirby said he then "laid her up a little bit" for the winter before returning her to training at Hawthorne, where she has recorded a steady workout pattern since early March.

Fourteen fillies are entered in the one-mile Appalachian, although only 12 will be allowed to start. Two other fillies in the field also won their previous start: Classic Neel, who drew post 1, and Not Two Quiet, who has been relegated to the also-eligibles list.

Of those trying to rebound off defeats, maybe Miss Tizzynow and Swingit rate the best chances. Miss Tizzynow won her lone turf try, while Swingit was an upset winner of the Jessamine County over the Keeneland turf course last fall.