04/10/2006 11:00PM

Joint Effort auditioning for Ky. Oaks


LEXINGTON, Ky. - When the Kentucky Oaks picture became muddled in recent days, with Balance being soundly defeated by upstart Bushfire in the Ashland Stakes and Wild Fit dropping out because of illness, the wheels started turning for Dale Romans.

"I thought, 'Why not us?' " said Romans. "The Oaks is so wide open right now, it's unbelievable. If our filly runs big Thursday, sure, we'll look at running back in the Oaks."

The Romans filly who runs Thursday is Joint Effort, an unspectacular but eminently capable filly with 3 victories from 10 career starts. Joint Effort is one of 10 3-year-old fillies set to run in the $250,000 Beaumont Stakes, the eighth of nine races at Keeneland.

, bred and owned by Don Dizney, won her final race at 2, a Churchill Downs allowance, before capturing her 3-year-old debut, the Jan. 28 Sunshine Millions Oaks at Gulfstream Park. Another victory in her lone subsequent start, the March 5 Forward Gal at Gulfstream, likely would have made her a leading contender for the May 5 Oaks, but Joint Effort gave just a so-so effort when finishing seventh, beaten 5 1/2 lengths.

"That race actually wasn't all that bad, but I think she's going to run a lot better this time," said Romans. "She's been training really well, and we're excited about what our position could be for the Oaks."

Rene Douglas, the new first-call rider for the Romans stable, has the call on Joint Effort, who will break from post 3.

The Grade 2 Beaumont, run at the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet, has been contested by some exceptional fillies in recent years, most notably Bird Town, who finished second in the Beaumont three years ago before winning the Oaks and a divisional champion.

Joint Effort's chief rival in the Beaumont probably is , the Forward Gal runner-up. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden, as always, by John Velazquez, India has won twice in six races, all of which have come at seven furlongs or shorter. India drew the far outside post Thursday.

Pletcher also will be represented in the Beaumont by (post 5), who won her first two starts before finishing fourth as the favorite in her latest outing, the Feb. 4 Old Hat at Gulfstream.

Diplomat Lady (post 4), winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in December, heads the rest of the Beaumont lineup.