01/17/2008 12:00AM

Miss Red Delicious ripe for her 3-year-old debut

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When Miss Red Delicious last raced in the Grade 2 Matron Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 15, she had the misfortune of facing one of the top 2-year-old fillies of last year, Proud Spell, the eventual runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

It showed in her performance. After dueling for the early lead, Miss Red Delicious weakened in the stretch, finishing 19 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Proud Spell.

Making her first start as a 3-year-old Saturday in the $50,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park, circumstances are much more favorable for a top effort. Although she is running in a full field in the 6o1/2-furlong Cincinnati Trophy, none of her rivals are near the quality of Proud Spell. Other than Miss Red Delicious, the only stakes winner in the race is Clever Idea, and that win came in Michigan-bred company.

Mark Hubley, who trains Miss Red Delicious for owner-breeder Katierich Stables, said that after her performance in the Matron it made sense to give her time to develop in preparation for her 3-year-old season.

A small, slight Empire Maker filly, Miss Red Delicious has benefited from the time off to grow and mature, Hubley said.

Judging from her recent works at Keeneland, she is on edge for her comeback. Late last month she breezed five furlongs in 57.80 seconds, and then followed that drill with a more controlled five-furlong breeze in 1:02.40 there Jan. 11.

Hubley said the work in 57.80 was not by design. She was cruising along, he said, when another horse in front of her broke off for a work, and she became overly competitive, catching the other horse before the finish.

Although the breeze was too fast for his liking, he said, "To work that fast with all that time off, I'd say she's definitely fit and ready to go."

Victor Lebron, who rode Miss Red Delicious to a victory in the Anna M. Fisher Debutante at Ellis Park on Aug.o18, returns in the irons.

The blinkers she wore for the last three races are coming off for the Cincinnati Trophy, a decision Hubley feels may help her settle and not wait on horses if in front, as she did in winning the Fisher Debutante.

The opposition is headed by Birdgirl, runner-up in the Gowell Stakes at Turfway on Dec. 22; Conjuress, who won her lone start on the lead despite a tardy break; Valentine Fever, a filly with a 2-for-3 record on Polytrack; and Love Buzz, who defeated Miss Red Delicious when they each debuted last year in a 4 1/2-furlong race at Keeneland on April 13.