06/16/2005 11:00PM

Colonial: Pedigree play

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There are precious few clues to help a handicapper in search of a winner in the $60,000 Oakley Stakes at Colonial Downs.

The 1 1/16-mile turf race, restricted to 3-year-old Virginia-bred fillies, is really a guessing game. The seven entrants are a combined 0 for 4 on grass. Three have yet to race beyond a mile.

Maria's Dance has sprinted on dirt in her first three starts, but her pedigree indicates she ought to relish turf and long distance. Her second dam, Dance Teacher won the Grade 3 Vineland Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf in 1988.

In addition, Maria's Dance is a half-sister to the mare Hidden Ransom, whose turf credentials include a second in the five-furlong Betsy Ross at Monmouth and a fourth in the one-mile Gaviola at Belmont in 2004.

Two others, Riptide and Cherry Hill Lady, have already tried turf once with encouraging results.

Riptide has been freshened since finishing second by a neck going a mile on grass against maidens at Tampa Bay Downs in early April. Her half-brother, Casanova Slammer, won his turf debut as a 3-year-old facing claimers at Belmont.

Riptide, fourth in a field of 10 allowance runners on turf in April at Pimlico, is a half-sister to the gelding Sawdust. Although only 1 for 4 on turf, Sawdust finished third in a one-mile stakes at Colonial Downs at 3.

The likely favorite in the Oakley is Joyous Song, by far the most experienced and accomplished filly in the race with 3 wins in 12 starts.

In her lone try on turf, Joyous Song stumbled at the start yet still managed to finish within three lengths of the winner in a minor sprint stakes at Gulfstream.