01/17/2002 12:00AM

Cincinnati entices Cain back with Iffy

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The extraordinarily beautiful region that encompasses the south-central Kentucky town of Russell Springs can boast a number of special attributes. Most notable is a massive body of pristine water known as Lake Cumberland, which draws tens of thousands of vacationers each year.

One of the things for which this rural area is not known is Thoroughbred racing. But from a 50-acre spread in Russell Springs, Cain Thoroughbreds has become a familiar fixture on the Kentucky racing circuit.

Owned and operated by Joe Cain, the stable has become a success in recent years with such runners as Marciann, the 2000 horse of the year in Indiana, and Pricearose, a multiple allowance winner at Churchill Downs.

Cain, 46, has space for 33 horses at his farm, which includes a five-furlong training track and other amenities.

With some 15 2-year-olds occupying his stalls, he has about 18 active runners, with the most accomplished being Iffy, who will be one of the favorites Saturday in the $50,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

Iffy, a consistent Is It True filly owned by Dennis Farkas of Elliottsville, Ind., finished third in the Dec. 22 Gowell Stakes, then won an interim allowance race Jan. 5 as a prep for the Cincinnati Trophy.

From seven lifetime starts, Iffy has three victories, two seconds, and a third.

"It's been a little disappointing that she hasn't won a stakes yet," said Cain, who farmed and built cattle transport units before turning to full-time training.

"But she's getting more mature, and I think more distance will help her. The heart this filly's got, it's comparable to anything. She doesn't like to lose."

Iffy is one of 11 3-year-old fillies entered in the Cincinnati Trophy, a 6 1/2-furlong race that dates to 1983. Among the other top contenders scheduled to start are Timeless Love, narrow winner of the Gowell at 29-1, and Southern Dream, a speedy filly trained by Bernie Flint.

As usual, Cain and Iffy will make the nearly three-hour trip to Turfway from Russell Springs.

"I could be stabled at one of the tracks, but I'd rather live down here," said Cain, citing a higher quality of life and an ability to spend more time with family.

Cain said he is hopeful that Iffy can progress this winter and earn a berth in such major Kentucky events as the March 23 Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway or the April 6 Ashland at Keeneland.

"That's really what we're looking toward," he said.

The Cincinnati Trophy is the 10th of 12 Saturday races.

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