05/24/2008 12:00AM

Ohio Valley duel of two speedsters


Maryland-based trainer Crystal Pickett and Kentucky-based trainer Bernie Flint will face off in an “anything you can do, I can do better” battle Tuesday night at Mountaineer Racetrack.

Instead of a war of words, the two trainers will allow their 5-year-old mares La Chica Rica and High Heritage to decide the issue in the $75,000 Ohio Valley Handicap, a six-furlong stakes for female sprinters.

La Chica Rica has won three straight races shipping to West Virginia, all in wire-to-wire fashion, including the five-furlong Hancock County Handicap two weeks ago. Her lone loss in three starts locally came when she was second by three-quarters of a length to Country Diva in the New Year’s Eve Stakes last Dec. 30.

High Heritage returns to Mountaineer for the first time since she won the 2007 Hancock County. Although she trains at Churchill Downs, High Heritage is 3 for 5 shipping into Mountaineer, including a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure for her allowance win in September 2006.

In addition, Flint is 6 for 23 (26 percent) with stakes horses he has shipped into Mountaineer since 2005.

Both mares consistently flash high early speed and are accustomed to racing on the lead. Based on their best recent races, La Chica Rica might be a bit faster.

In the Hancock County, La Chica Rica set fractions of 22.22 seconds for a quarter-mile and 45.56 for a half-mile while recording her third consecutive Beyer in the narrow range of 94 to 96.

In contrast, High Heritage posted fractions of 22.35 and 46.02 seconds in her most recent win, a four-length score over optional $75,000 claimers at Oaklawn Park in late March that earned her an 88 Beyer.

If the two favorites burn each other out in a duel, the beneficiary most likely would be A Little Wild.

Third in this stakes last year, A Little Wild will be making her first start since November. Her trainer, Charles Walker, is 4 for his last 14 (29 percent) with horses returning from layoffs of 61 to 180 days. The 5-year-old A Little Wild has been first or second in 9 of 15 starts locally.