12/18/2003 1:00AM

'Ready' makes stop for Gowell


FLORENCE, Ky. - Ready and Tough is headed south to Florida in the coming weeks. In the meantime, she is taking a detour to race in a stakes at Turfway Park.

A winner of two of three starts, she will race in Saturday's $50,000 Gowell Stakes at Turfway before pursuing more lucrative races at Gulfstream Park over the winter. In a field of 10 runners at six furlongs, she is a short-priced standout.

After finishing second in her debut at Arlington on Aug. 30, Ready and Tough easily won a race at Keeneland and a race at Churchill Downs. She won a maiden race by 7 1/4 lengths at Keeneland on Oct. 8 and followed with a 4 3/4-length victory against first-level allowance horses at Churchill Downs in the mud. Both performances earned her Beyer Speed Figures of 86, best among the Gowell starters.

"Running in this makes sense," said trainer Paul McGee, who trains Ready and Tough for the Jay Em Ess Stable. "The timing is good. She will have a little over a month or so from her last race, and it will give her about the same time to a race at Gulfstream."

For a small 2-year-old filly like Ready and Tough, that kind of spacing is to her benefit, as is her easy training style. Unless she is working in company, she barely works quickly enough to make the work tab. When tuning up for the Gowell, Ready and Tough breezed five furlongs in 1:05 at Churchill Downs on Dec. 3.

She worked similarly before each of her two victories, preceding her Keeneland victory with a 1:05.20 breeze and her Churchill win with a 1:05.60 breeze.

"I think she has just caught on to the game," said McGee.

Willie Martinez, who rode her to victory at Churchill Downs, has the mount on Ready and Tough, a daughter of graded-stakes-winning sprinter Good and Tough.

The opposition is led by Storming Way, coming out of a stakes, and recent maiden graduates Keep This Cat, Slewpy's Storm, and Swift Trick.

Storming Way returns to a sprint after fading to eighth in the one-mile Pocahontas at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1, when she broke sharply and dueled on the lead before fading to lose by over 20 lengths to Stellar Jayne.

Her other two races were much better. She won a maiden race at first asking at Ellis Park, running a 77 Beyer, and followed that with a third behind Stellar Jayne in a Keeneland allowance. Leading jockey Rafael Bejarano rides for trainer Greg Foley.