04/28/2007 12:00AM

Lady Joanne class edge vs. elders

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Many of the best 3-year-old fillies in the country will race at Churchill Downs Friday in the Kentucky Oaks. But one - Grade 2 Golden Rod winner Lady Joanne - is making an earlier appearance at Churchill Downs.

Unraced since winning the Golden Rod on Nov. 25, she looms the class of Tuesday's featured ninth race, a $52,500 second-level allowance at six furlongs. Not that her task is easy. Four of her five opponents are older mares, and although Lady Joanne has some natural speed, she was most effective last fall when racing in longer races.

"This race is a little short for her, but it is what's there," trainer Carl Nafzger said.

After the talent she flashed last year, Nafzger had hoped that Lady Joanne would end up in the Kentucky Oaks. But she had not matured to his satisfaction over the winter, leading him to back off her training and give her 30 days of rest.

"She didn't take us" to the Oaks, he said. "So we couldn't go. I like the horses to take me where I'm going."

Where she took him was to an allowance during Derby week, a race Nafzger hopes will set her up for a start in the June 2 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill, a Grade 3 race at a mile.

Going that distance last fall, she ran third behind Change Up and Mistical Plan in the Grade 3 Pocahontas, a race that preceded the Golden Rod.

Calvin Borel, who will ride the Nafzger-trained Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby, picks up the mount on Lady Joanne. Bentley Smith owns the filly.

Silk Queen is not as accomplished as Lady Joanne, but as a 4-year-old who has made 12 starts, she is older and more experienced. After beginning her career 0 for 10, she won two straight starts at Fair Grounds this winter.

She dominated from start to finish in both. On Jan. 8, she went wire-to-wire to win her maiden by 14 3/4 lengths, and her first-level allowance win on Feb. 17 came in similar front-running fashion. She won the Feb. 17 race by 5 3/4 lengths over next-out winner Ruby's Grand Slam.

She has trained swiftly in recent weeks for trainer Bobby Frankel. Rafael Bejarano rides.

Other prominent starters are recent Keeneland allowance winner Arradoul, and Speedy Sandy, a 4-year-old filly that contended in stakes and allowance races in Canada last year. Speedy Sandy ran fifth at Gulfstream Apr.il5 in her lone this year.