02/14/2002 12:00AM

Devout Sinner after fifth in a row


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Devout Sinner's increased willingness to rate should serve her well Saturday when she goes for her fifth consecutive win, against one of the deepest fields she has ever encountered, in the $50,000 Pippin at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile race has drawn 10 fillies and mares, including the up-and-coming Victory at Sea, who could go favored on the heels of back-to-back allowance wins for trainer Elliott Walden; the improving Momentous, who has placed in two stakes in her last two starts; and Please Sign In, who is dropping out graded stakes company.

Devout Sinner is a lightly raced 4-year-old who has won four stakes in her last four starts, by a combined margin of 11 lengths. She is growing up, said her owner and trainer, Joan Charlton, and as a result seems to be rating more kindly for regular rider Cliff Berry.

"She's getting more mature about relaxing," said Charlton. "She's more willing to sit back and wait until Cliff wants her to go."

It will be to Devout Sinner's advantage to rate Saturday, as Victory at Sea and Please Sign In are both front-runners and could make for some fireworks on the front end. In addition, Momentous won her last race wire-to-wire.

"We'll probably be in the thick of things," said Henry Cochran, who trains Momentous.

Devout Sinner, who must spot her rivals five to nine pounds, is not just growing up mentally.

"She's got a little more depth to her as far as her body," said Charlton, who was pleased with how the filly handled the local strip in a work last Saturday.

Devout Sinner enters off a three-quarter-length victory in the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff Handicap, which was her first start back from a two-month layoff. She was flattered last Saturday night when the third-place finisher from that race, Coastalota, romped by nine lengths in the Tomball Stakes at Sam Houston.

Victory at Sea has also been working well, though at Fair Grounds. She wired a field of conditioned allowance foes two starts back over a mile at Arlington Park on Aug. 11, then returned from a four-month layoff to win a two-turn optional claimer at Fair Grounds on Dec. 27.

For her local bow, she must break from a difficult spot, post 10, but she gets the services of one of the best front-end riders at Oaklawn in Calvin Borel. Victory at Sea races for Bill and Susan Casner.

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