03/11/2004 12:00AM

Just one for Jerkens this time


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - With his stablemate, Puzzlement, sidelined by a leg infection, Bowman's Band will have to go it alone Saturday against nine rivals in the Grade 3, $100,000 Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

finished a neck behind when Puzzlement took the Hal's Hope Handicap here on opening day. Bowman's Band then finished last in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap - Puzzlement was fourth - when he clipped heels and almost went down entering the far turn.

Following the Donn, Bowman's Band developed a fever and missed a couple of days of training, but has rebounded sufficiently for trainer Allen Jerkens to run him in this spot. Like the Hal's Hope, the Skip Away is run at 1 1/16 miles, a distance at which Bowman's Band is 3-2-0 from five starts.

"He's won at a mile and an eighth, but his best races have been at a mile and a sixteenth,'' said Jerkens, who worked Bowman's Band a half-mile in 48 seconds Thursday morning. "He's pretty fit; all set to go.''

The Skip Away will be no cakewalk for Bowman's Band, who breaks from the rail. Christine's Outlaw, drawn right outside Bowman's Band, is coming off a stellar victory in a seven-furlong allowance race here on Feb. 9. He is 3 for 4 at Gulfstream. Though 0 for 4 at 1 1/16 miles, he was beaten a nose and a head in two stakes at that distance.

"We're still up in the air exactly what he wants to do,'' trainer George Weaver said. "He's fairly versatile, he just barely got beat in a couple of graded stakes last year going a mile and a sixteenth. I don't think the distance will bother him. He's in position to run a very good race so we're going to give it a shot.''

Jerry Bailey takes off Christine's Outlaw to ride Bourbonnais, who won a second-level allowance race by 4 3/4 lengths when racing on Lasix for the first time. He must overcome post 9.

Stakes winners Offlee Wild, Supah Blitz, Newfoundland, and M B Sea add to the depth of the Skip Away, which goes as the last of 13 races.

Marshua's River wide open

The $60,000 Marshua's River, for fillies and mares at one mile on the turf, is equally as competitive as the Skip Away. Fourteen were entered though only 12 will be able to run.

Coney Kitty, who has run well in two stakes this year, could offer value for trainer Jimmy Toner. She was boxed in and had to rally seven wide when beaten one length in the Endeavour Stakes at Tampa. She has since come back to work a bullet half-mile in 48.40 seconds at Payson Park.

My Ro, unbeaten in four starts on dirt, makes her turf debut and is bred to handle the surface being out of the multiple turf stakes-winning mare Romy. Dedication, a Grade 1 winner in France, was beaten only a neck in the Grade 1 Matriarch at this distance last November. This is the final start of her career.

Vespers, Changing World, Delta Princess, and Cellars Shiraz are also contenders.