04/16/2006 11:00PM

In the Gold in the pink

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
In the Gold is easily the top earner in Wednesday's Doubledogdare field.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - At first glance, the only race this year for In the Gold was quite disappointing. But a deeper look reveals the filly never really had an opportunity to run her race, and handicappers should be willing to give her a second chance Wednesday when In the Gold goes off as a major contender in the $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland.

was bottled up in traffic for much of the backstretch run in her 4-year-old debut, the Grade 2 Shirley Jones on March 18 at Gulfstream Park. True, she did not come with her usual strong rally when finally free to do so, but she had expended considerable effort just negotiating through a crush of foes, and there are other mitigating circumstances to strongly suggest she will improve dramatically over her eighth-place finish when she faces five rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Doubledogdare.

First, In the Gold stands to benefit from having had a race in the seven-furlong Shirley Jones, her first start in nearly five months. Second, the added distance should help a filly who last fall won the Grade 1 Gazelle at 1 1/8 miles. Third, she brings a decided class edge to the Doubledogdare as easily the leading earner ($688,742) in the field. Fourth, she demonstrated a fondness for Keeneland last spring when capturing the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes.

Not enough? Well, her trainer, Nick Zito, holds the hottest hand at Keeneland. With nine wins, Zito leads all trainers as the 15-day meet hits its midpoint Wednesday.

In the Gold, owned by the Live Oak Plantation, will have Rafael Bejarano aboard again Wednesday. Bejarano has ridden the Golden Missile filly on several occasions, including in the Beaumont and Shirley Jones.

Probably the strongest challengers are , a winner last out at Santa Anita for trainer Bobby Frankel, and Miss Matched, a two-time stakes winner last year for trainer John Ward.

The rest of the field is Pool Land, Private Gift, and .

The Doubledogdare is the eighth of nine races on a Wednesday card that also includes three allowances (races 3, 7, and 9). The seventh, a $62,000 third-level turf allowance, drew a filly who is sure to draw attention: Gorella, who was beaten less than a length by Artie Schiller when her torrid rally fell short in the Breeders' Cup Mile last fall.

The pick-six carryover for Wednesday is $13,139. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.