11/09/2001 1:00AM

Lady Cherie the one to beat

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GROVE CITY, Ohio - Lady Cherie is the one to beat when she starts as the highweight and likely favorite in a full field of 12 Ohio-bred fillies and mares in the $40,000 Scarlet and Gray Handicap at Beulah Park.

Lady Cherie, a 4-year-old daughter of Al Sabin, goes after her fourth stakes victory of the year for trainer Michael Nance. She was an easy 7 1/2 length winner in her most recent start, the Bobbie Bricker Handicap here at 1 1/16 miles on Oct. 28.

In her previous start, Lady Cherie finished second beaten 4 1/2 lengths in the $75,000 Best of Ohio Distaff Championship run here on Oct. 8 at 1 1/8 miles. Overall, Lady Cherie sports a career record of 10-4-1 from 20 starts good for $337,700 in earnings. Regular rider Julio Felix will be in from Thistledown to ride Lady Cherie, who will carry 123 pounds, conceding from one to 15 pounds to her 11 rivals.

Lady Cherie's main obstacles appear to be the six-furlong distance of the race, at which she is 0 for 2 this year, and her rail post position draw in the bulky field.

Athenavega and Scioto Bootski both loom dangerous.

Athenavega ships in from Thistledown, where she has finished second in each of her last two starts for trainer Alan Sobol. Athenavega owns a victory over Lady Cherie earlier this year when she captured a six-furlong stakes at Thistledown in April.

Scioto Bootski has won 4 of her 6 career starts, including an easy 7 1/2-length victory against allowance company here on Oct. 20. She has not been beaten in three career starts at six furlongs.