01/15/2004 12:00AM

Leading Lioness has easier task

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Last month in the Gowell Stakes at Turfway Park, Leading Lioness took advantage of a hotly contested pace over a muddy strip and rallied to upset favored Ready and Tough at odds of 25-1.

Saturday in the $50,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway, she may not receive quite the same dream setup, but she may not need it, either. Ready and Tough is being pointed toward a winter campaign in Florida, leaving Leading Lioness to face weaker opposition than those she just defeated.

All but two of the 10 3-year-old fillies entered for the 6 1/2-furlong Cincinnati Trophy have raced for a claiming price, including Leading Lioness. Only Plumlake Lady and Stoneway have not, but neither has run a Beyer Speed Figure in excess of a 64.

Leading Lioness has never run quickly herself - posting her career-best Beyer of 67 in the Gowell - but that has not stopped her from winning half of her six starts. Besides her win in the Gowell Stakes, she won a maiden special weight race at Churchill Downs in the spring and an allowance at Ellis Park in July. She has earned more than $71,000 for owners Michael Hamilton and Russell Hale.

Trainer Bob Pincins has given the mount to Mark Johnston, who was aboard for the Gowell.

Plumlake Lady, a winner of her only start, Jan. 3, gets the services of the hot-riding Rafael Bejarano. Bejarano, who set a record for victories during the holiday meet at Turfway, is 26 for 80 this year heading into Thursday's card. He won last week's stakes at Turfway, the Wishing Well, aboard Saratoga Humor.

Although Plumlake Lady did not run quickly in her debut victory, she showed class to overcome trouble. Starting from the fence, she broke a step slowly and was later checked a quarter-mile into the race. She rallied to score a half-length victory under Mike Morgan.

Speed horses Stoneway, Beau Watch, and Down by the Sea will be the early targets for Plumlake Lady and Leading Lioness. All three come off front-running victories.

Down by the Sea has won three in a row against statebred competition at Hoosier Park. A two-time stakes winner against Indiana-breds, she also placed second in open company in the Pepsi Bassinet Stakes at River Downs in August.

The field is completed by R B Women, Military Mission, Slewpy's Storm, Lovin the Sunshine, and Request Denied.