04/12/2005 12:00AM

In the Gold in Beaumont as Oaks prep


LEXINGTON, Ky. - In one of those disappointing years when trainer Nick Zito did not have a starter in the Kentucky Derby, he derived great satisfaction from winning the Kentucky Oaks. That was 2003, when Bird Town upset the Oaks at 18-1 on her way to the 3-year-old filly championship.

This year, with his barn overflowing with Derby hopefuls, Zito has no worries about being empty-handed on Derby Day. But that doesn't mean he can't have a filly for the Oaks, too. In fact, when In the Gold runs Thursday in the Stonerside Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland, Zito will be looking to make it to another Oaks with another legitimate contender.

Only five fillies were entered in the $250,000 Beaumont, but it's a field of quality, and the winner would seemingly be worthy of a trip to Churchill Downs, especially in light of what has happened in recent days to the prospective field for the May 6 Oaks. With the notable exception of Sis City, the runaway winner of the Ashland last Saturday at Keeneland, there are no other standouts awaiting the Oaks, and like many trainers, Zito is not inclined to skip a major event simply because of the presence of one solid favorite.

opened up on the field, but In the Gold and Jill Robin L came rolling past her in deep stretch, with Jill Robin L prevailing by a nose over In the Gold.

The Bonnie Miss vindicated In the Gold from a subpar previous race, the Feb. 5 Davona Dale, in which she finished second by 16 lengths to Sis City. In the Gold already had proved her mettle to a large degree, having sandwiched two victories around a pair of stakes attempts that included the Alcibiades Stakes last October, when she finished third, beaten just a head for all the money, behind two other Oaks hopefuls, Runway Model and Sharp Lisa.

In the Gold, with Rafael Bejarano to ride, drew post 3 in the Beaumont, which is run at the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet. Her opposition consists of Aspen Tree, Brooke's Halo, Hot Storm, and Punch Appeal.

The Beaumont goes as the eighth of nine races on a card that also includes four allowances.