02/21/2006 12:00AM

Pippin finally a go after two false starts


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Same field, different posts. That has been the ongoing story with the $50,000 Pippin Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares that has been drawn three times in the last week because a winter storm forced the cancellation of racing Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at Oaklawn Park.

The Pippin will now go as the feature for Thursday, and the same field of eight that had entered the race for its original date of Feb. 18, as well as its second scheduled date of Feb. 20, are all back for the third go-round. Private Gift should go favored from the rail. In the previous draws, she had gate 8 and gate 5.

The rail post should suit Private Gift, said her trainer, Neil Howard.

"She's usually good out of the gate," he said. "She's a filly that's always gotten decent position in her races."

has won her last two starts, and in those races broke from the rail and used stalking tactics. She won an optional claiming race at Churchill Downs at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 13. One start later, Private Gift captured the $75,000 Truly Bound Breeders' Cup Handicap at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs on Dec. 24.

Since then, she has trained at Oaklawn, breezing a half-mile in 48.40 seconds in her final prep Feb. 15. Robby Albarado has the mount on Private Gift, who is a half-sister to Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status.

gets post 8 for the Pippin. She has a recency edge over Private Gift, having last raced on Jan. 14. La Reason made a rare turf start that afternoon, and finished a big second in the Grade 3, $250,000 Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap at the Fair Grounds meet. She moves back to dirt for the Pippin, and is a stakes winner over the track at Oaklawn.

David Vance trains La Reason, a Grade 2 winner, and has given the mount to Terry Thompson.

will break from gate 3. She has won two stakes in her last three starts: the off-the-turf $75,000 Furl Sail at the Fair Grounds meet on Dec. 17, and the $40,000 Sam Houston Distaff at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 21.

Other starters of note include Platinum Ballet, winner of a Jan. 27 allowance in her first start since winning the $125,000 Iowa Distaff in July.