01/10/2002 1:00AM

Devout Sinner returns for more


Devout Sinner, who has won three stakes in her last three starts by a combined 10 lengths, returns from a brief layoff in Saturday night's $50,000 Distaff Handicap at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares has drawn 11, including Western Side, a Churchill Downs allowance winner making her two-turn debut for trainer Kenny Smith; Cello, who finished fourth in the $75,000 Truly Bound at Fair Grounds last month following a seven month layoff; and Coastalota, winner of the $75,000 Martanza Handicap for statebreds at Sam Houston.

Devout Sinner rose to the top of the Oklahoma female division in her last start, when she defeated the best Remington Park had to offer, including regional standout Voladora, in the $40,000 Ada Handicap on Nov. 18. Before that race, she won the track's $50,000 Oklahoma Classics Day Distaff and its $25,000 Black Mesa Handicap.

Devout Sinner was later voted horse of the meet at Remington Park. Overall, the 4-year-old has won five races in eight starts for earnings of $140,875.

Owner-trainer Joan Charlton gave Devout Sinner some downtime to regroup from her productive fall campaign. In one of her final preps for the Distaff Handicap, the filly, the 119-pound starting highweight, worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.40 seconds. She is to be ridden by Cliff Berry.

Larry Sterling, Jr., has the mount on Western Side, a developing 4-year-old who was assigned 112 pounds, seven fewer than Devout Sinner. In her last start, Western Side finished third to $500,000-earner Midge Too in the $25,000 San Felipe at Sam Houston, and on Saturday night will make her first two-turn start following wins at a mile at Arlington Park and 7 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs.

In addition to her ability to stalk the pace, which should serve her well around two turns, Western Pride gets pedigree support for the added distance from her sire, Gone West, and her dam, champion race mare North Sider, a three-time Grade 1 winner who earned $1.1 million.

Another threat to Devout Sinner is Cello, who should move forward in her second start back from the long layoff. She set some of the pace in the Truly Bound before tiring, and for the ship to Houston keeps the services of jockey Lonnie Meche.

Devout Sinner, however, is the one to beat and should get a good stalking trip behind a handful of speed sorts in the race, including Becky Virtue and Caustic Remark, who have each won their last two starts on the front end.