08/17/2006 12:00AM

Questions surround Oaks fillies


CHICAGO - The three fillies who figure to be favored Saturday in the $100,000 Arlington Breeders' Cup Oaks all have questions to answer. How will Baghdaria bounce back from a 35-length drubbing in New York? With Coolwind, the issue is whether she can show her best in a two-turn race. And who knows what to make of Cryptoquip, who drilled Ohio-breds in a $100,000 stakes race at River Downs, only to have her victory erased when the race was declared no-contest because of a starting-gate malfunction.

There even is a question about who exactly is running in the local Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race. My Chickadee and Meadow Skippin were cross-entered in the Hatoof Stakes, a one-mile grass race, and as of Thursday morning their connections were uncertain which way they'd go. Waiting in the Hatoof, which goes just before the Oaks, is Vacare, who has won the first two starts of her career in eye-catching fashion.

Baghdaria has quietly put together a good season, banking more than $315,000 with wins in the Silverbulletday during the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs and the Iowa Oaks on June 30 at Prairie Meadows. Sent to Belmont for the July 22 Coaching Club American Oaks, however, Baghdaria never got involved and wound up eighth.

"It was a tough day, very, very hot, and muddy," trainer Tom Amoss said. "It was just a bad environment and it didn't work out."

Baghdaria since has posted three works at Churchill Downs, and "all systems point to her running the kind of race she ran in Iowa," Amoss said.

Coolwind has put together back-to-back open-lengths wins at Arlington, but both came in one-turn miles. In a pair of two-turn races, Coolwind has been beaten a combined 55 lengths, but both came over the sometimes tricky Keeneland track, and neither race shaped up for her.

"She hasn't had a fair shot," said trainer Greg Geier. "Hopefully Saturday we will get a fair shot, and we'll see what happens."

Cryptoquip won a Churchill Downs one-mile maiden by six lengths in May and scored by almost 12 lengths in the initial running of the Queen City Oaks. But rather than go back to River Downs for the Queen City rerun, Cryptoquip tries a tougher spot.

"We're still kind of feeling out where she belongs," trainer Tom Proctor said.