08/19/2005 12:00AM

'Easy' handles turf, dirt


The major contenders in the $45,000 Vivacious Handicap at River Downs - and there are many - can be divided into three camps: those who prefer turf, those who prefer dirt, and those who perform equally well on both surfaces.

The Vivacious, for Ohio-bred fillies and mares, is scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf, but if recent wet weather persists, the Vivacious is in danger of being switched to the main track.

Oh So Easy, the defending Vivacious champion and the topweight Sunday at 122 pounds, is one of those rare horses who handles all types of surfaces. Despite that versatility, Oh So Easy has not been the dominant mare this year that she was last season, and favoritism may go to one of her rivals if the race remains on the turf.

Rhythm in Shoes is a vastly better mare now than when she finished third in the 2004 Vivacious. Since then she has established herself as a major player in high-end turf allowances in the region, winning at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. She enters the Vivacious following a second in an open allowance on the turf at Mountaineer three weeks ago.

Another to watch for if the Vivacious remains on the turf is Always Dreaming, the runner-up in this race last season. The 3-year-olds Misty Tab, a multiple stakes winner on the turf this meet, and Nitty Gritty, a turf allowance winner here on July 11, also merit consideration.

Barnsy, who will be coupled with Oh So Easy, is strictly a dirt performer. Though she has had a limited campaign of three starts this season, Barnsy has finished second in two of them, one of which was the DeBartolo Memorial at Thistledown last month.

Patti's Clown benefited from a surface switch from turf to dirt in the Ms. Southern Ohio at River two weeks ago, and would appear to have a decent shot at pulling off the stakes double if the situation arises again.

Golden Tour and Imahoneytoo, veteran stakes performers on the dirt in Ohio for several years, add even more depth to the Vivacious, which is the last Ohio-bred stakes of the meet.