04/06/2010 12:00AM

Faster pace should boost Euphony in Bayakoa


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Euphony had two significant variables working against her in her most recent start - a wide post and a sluggish pace. She drew an improved gate for Wednesday's $100,000 Bayakoa at Oaklawn, and there is a good chance that the pace will be honest in the 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.

The Bayakoa continues the Racing Festival of the South, when a cluster of nine stakes worth $2.8 million is spread out over the final week of the meet, which ends Saturday.

Euphony was fighting a losing battle last month in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri, but nobody told her. She launched a determined bid into a controlled pace to finish second to wire-to-wire winner Freedom Star in the 1 1/16-mile race. Euphony broke from post 9 that day but will be in post 6 for the Bayakoa.

"Our post position last time dictated that we either send and get over or take back and get over," said Donnie Von Hemel who trains Euphony. "We decided to take back and were a little further back than we usually are. She put in a good move when we asked her to. We just couldn't get that last one run down."

Distinctive Dixie, who finished second to Euphony in last year's Bayakoa, should be prominent from the rail Wednesday, while the pace could be forced along by Taptam and Payton d'Oro.

Euphony, who races for Pin Oak Stable, will be ridden by Cliff Berry. She is looking to become the third Azeri graduate to win in their next start, with Freedom Star coming back to take the $100,000 Harry Hensen at Sunland and third-place finisher Afleet Deceit returning to win an allowance at Oaklawn.

Payton d'Oro, who last year won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, is making her second start of the year. Freshened since the fall, she returned in a tough Feb. 12 allowance at Oaklawn and finished second to multiple stakes winner Taptam.

"It could have been a small stakes race with all the horses in that allowance," said Cindy Jones, who trains Payton d'Oro.

Jones felt Payton d'Oro needed the race and is looking for her to move forward Wednesday.

"I expect a big, big effort out of her," she said.

Terry Thompson has the mount.

Also in the Bayakoa is Luna Vega, the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher winner making her first start since September.