10/18/2009 11:00PM

Hungry Tigress tepid choice at Mountaineer


Versatility is one of Hungry Tigress's best traits.

A 4-year-old filly based at Turfway Park with trainer William Connelly, Hungry Tigress has won a $75,000 stakes in the mud, placed second in a pair of stakes on the turf, and finished in the money in 3 of 4 starts on two different synthetic surfaces.


One thing Hungry Tigress has never been asked to do, however, is race on a fast dirt track, and that may be her biggest challenge in Tuesday night's $75,000 Autumn Leaves Stakes for fillies and mares at Mountaineer Racetrack.

The 1 1/16-mile stakes goes as race 8 on a nine-race card and drew a field of 11, including a pair of coupled entries.

Considering that Hungry Tigress romped by 14 lengths in the Summer Finale Handicap as the odds-on favorite over Mountaineer's muddy main track on Labor Day, there's no reason to suspect that she will dislike the local dirt if it has little or no moisture in it.

But there are three other horses in the Autumn Leaves field who look almost as fast as Hungry Tigress.

That group consists of Pyramyst, the runner-up in this stakes last year; Populist, a Maryland shipper from the high-percentage barn of Gary Capuano; plus Sweet and Flawless, a 3-year-old who chased Careless Jewel in the Grade 1 Alabama two months ago.

Pyramyst is riding a four-race winning streak compiled against high-priced claimers and optional claimers at Monmouth, Laurel, and Delaware. Although second in the 2008 Autumn Leaves, she was beaten 7 1/4 lengths as the 9-5 favorite.

Populist was up close at the stretch call and wound up beaten less than two lengths by Sweet Goodbye in the two-turn Pink Ribbon at Charles Town two starts ago. Sweet Goodbye came back last weekend to win another stakes at Charles Town.

Populist is the first horse Capuano has brought to Mountaineer since he won the 2006 West Virginia Governor's with Cherokee's Boy.

Sweet and Flawless was fourth of eight, though beaten nearly 16 lengths, in the Alabama. She remains eligible for a first-level allowance, but her lone career victory did come over Mountaineer's main track in March.

One other intriguing contender, Valley Loot, ships in from Pinnacle in Michigan, where she has been solid in restricted stakes. In her lone previous appearance locally, Valley Loot won the Golden Sylvia Handicap in the mud last June.