04/23/2003 11:00PM

Prairie Meadows: A two-horse race?


Graded stakes placed 4-year-old fillies For Rubies and Don't Countess Out head a field of eight fillies and mares entered in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Rose Stakes at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa.

For Rubies makes her second start of the year after having scored a 4 3/4-length victory over allowance rivals at Oaklawn Park 15 days ago. She is trained by Lynn Whiting.

For Rubies had a record of 4-3-3 from 12 starts as a 3-year-old in 2002, earning more than $200,000. She captured the Real Delight at Arlington Park last July and earlier in the year finished second in the one-mile Panthers here after a troubled trip. For Rubies's best effort last year may have come in defeat, when she ran second, beaten a length, in the Grade 3 Safely Kept at Pimlico in September.

For Rubies's tracking style should play well in Saturday's six-furlong Prairie Rose. Carlos Marquez Jr. has the call on For Rubies, a daughter of Not for Love who will carry top weight of 120 pounds under the allowance conditions of the race.

Don't Countess Out appears to be the main danger to For Rubies on Saturday. A daughter of Take Me Out, she will be making her first start of 2003 after a strong season last year, in which she recorded five victories from her nine starts and never finished off the board.

Don't Countess Out has won four of her six starts here, including a victory in the Iowa State Fair last August. Don't Countess Out has a solid series of works in preparation for her return from a 4 1/2-month layoff for trainer Larry Jones. Regular rider Terry Thompson has a return call in the Prairie Rose at 113 pounds.

The remainder of the field includes several solid runners, including stakes winners Princess Jen and Marciann, but it would be a surprise if anyone other than For Rubies or Don't Countess Out were to win.