09/22/2005 12:00AM

Fast Cookie set for peak effort

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NEW YORK - There are a lot of lucrative stakes on Saturday, but outside of Perfect Drift's appearance in the $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup, few of Saturday's stakes have serious implications for the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup. Next weekend will be a different story.

Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf

In what promises to be an excellent betting race, Fast Cookie is the play on the expectation that she is set for a peak performance.

Fast Cookie finished sixth last time out in a division of the De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga, but her effort was not as meek as it may appear on paper. She went into that spot off a 3 1/2-month layoff, and was caught three wide around the first turn, which is a critical ground loss around the tightly configured inner turf course at Saratoga. The early pace was slow - in fact, the first two finishers went around the track one-two - but Fast Cookie did well to hold her position through a quick third quarter-mile run in 23.17 seconds, and ran out of steam only in the final furlong.

Fast Cookie's first three races this year - a sharp second in the Endeavour Stakes in Tampa, an allowance win at Gulfstream, and a close fourth in Aqueduct's Beaugay Handicap - were all good enough to win a race like this. And four steady breezes since the De La Rose suggest she will be fit enough to return to that level of form.

Noble Damsel Handicap

Barring pertinent late scratches, the pace figures to be hot, with one-way front-runner Lentil likely to be goaded into fast fractions by a handful of opponents who do their best work on or close to the pace. With that in mind, Cloakof Vagueness is the firm pick.

Cloakof Vagueness did not capitalize on hot fractions last time out in the Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup. Given how far back she was early (19 lengths back at the first call, 15 at the second), she was given way too much to do. But, Cloakof Vagueness did demonstrate a good closing kick winning her prior two, the first being a good optional claimer/money allowance event, and the next being the faster-paced division of the De La Rose. Notably, both races were at this one-mile distance. And in terms of Beyer Speed Figures, those two wins were two of the three best races Cloakof Vagueness has ever run - and that takes in some territory, considering she has started 25 times in her career.

Kentucky Cup Turf

Silverfoot can certainly win this. His first three races this year were good, and he will probably like being back in Kentucky again. But it is hard to be enthusiastic, given how dull he was last time out in the Sword Dancer, even if he did have to check on the first turn. Rochester could win, too, as he has decent form against better company. But it's tough taking a horse like him that has not finished first in a race in three years.

Under the circumstances, Pellegrino is an appealing alternative. Pellegrino's first three starts this year, two in Grade 1's, weren't much to brag about, but he showed spark most recently at Del Mar in the Escondido Handicap. He made a decent, three-wide move the final time around the far turn, and was beaten only four lengths in a race that was quite probably tougher than this spot.

There is no question that Pellegrino is good enough. Late last year, he upset the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup, beating, among others, the top-class mare Megahertz and the 2004 BC Turf winner Better Talk Now.

Saturday

Kentucky Downs: Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 mile, turf

Approximate post: Eastern-5:11 p.m., Central-4:11 p.m., Mountain-3:11 p.m., Pacific-2:11 p.m.; Franklin, Ky., forecast: Partly cloudy, 90 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Tisket a Tasket78848720-1
2Juliet's Kiss81858715-1
3Gamble to Victory7191646-1
4Fast Cookie8892915-1
5Modena Bay71758620-1
6Beebe Lake85737930-1
7Spring Season9686913-1
8Miss Wellspring83778530-1
9Kaylan's Rose9491916-1
10Strike Me Lucky88689020-1
11Very Very92877910-1
12Pretty Jane9583834-1
Also eligible:
13Air Kaper-0576750-1
14Rose Hunter81817830-1

Odds by Steve Klein

Belmont Park: Noble Damsel Handicap
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 mile, Widener Turf Course

Approximate post: E-5:12 p.m., C-4:12 p.m., M-3:12 p.m., P-2:12 p.m.; Elmont, N. Y., forecast: Sunny, 72 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Fortunate Damsel88869512-1
2Bright Abundance87869712-1
3Asti8793958-1
4My Lordship9479943-1
5Sabellina84815420-1
6Path of Thunder9682907-2
7Cloakof Vagueness92951004-1
8Lentil81907650-1
9Stupendous Miss64951006-1
10Givememore94827930-1
11Humoristic89889315-1
12River Belle68878712-1
Also eligible:
13Storminan/an/an/a15-1

Odds by Art Gropper

Kentucky Downs: Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap
3 and up, 1 1/2 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-5:51 p.m., C-4:51 p.m., M-3:51 p.m., P-2:51 p.m.; Franklin, Ky., forecast: Partly cloudy, 90 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Habaneros88103856-1
2Scooter Roach9192918-1
3Pellegrino9788959-2
4Rayon9493878-1
5Silverfoot84102985-2
6Apple o' Dale66607050-1
7Gallo Del Bar88889212-1
8Rochester9991977-2
9Let It Thunder85738820-1

Odds by Steve Klein