06/22/2008 11:00PM

Ride Em Cowgirl worthy of singling

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some elite turf horses are chasing big money Saturday at Colonial Downs, which has a card featuring three stakes, including the Grade 3, $200,000 All Along - headlined by the classy Rutherienne - and the Grade 3, $600,000 Colonial Turf Cup, a race that drew Kentucky Derby also-rans Adriano and Court Vision.

Horseplayers, too, have an opportunity to chase a financial reward, albeit on a smaller scale, with contention running deep in the three stakes, which are linked together in a pick three.

Beginning with the Buckland Stakes, a $60,000 race for fillies and mares that precedes the All Along and Colonial Turf Cup, here is how I plan to play the wager.

Race 7, The Buckland

A 5 1/2-furlong turf dash, this race drew some of the top female sprinters from the Mid-Atlantic region, such as All Giving and Smart and Fancy, as well as some shippers from Kentucky and Illinois.

My play is Ride Em Cowgirl (No. 7), who has shown dramatic improvement this year as a 3-year-old.

I'll single her in the first leg of the pick three, which will allow me to spread in the final two races of the wager while keeping the cost of the ticket modest.

After winning just one of nine starts last year - with the win coming by disqualification, no less - Ride Em Cowgirl is 3 for 3 in 2008. She started off her year by taking a first-level allowance at Keeneland over its Polytrack surface April 19, followed that with a easy triumph in the Inaugural Stakes over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle, and then stormed home a 2 1/2-length winner of a five-furlong grass race at Arlington Park on May 31.

Those were just allowance fillies she defeated last time out, but she could not have been a more impressive winner. Sitting just off the pace between rivals, she was confidently handled, quickly opened up on the field in midstretch, and seemed to be doing only what was necessary in the stretch while winning under a hand ride from Eddie Razo.

The performance earned her a Beyer Speed Figure of 90, narrowly the top last-race Beyer in the field.

Others in the field have eclipsed a 90 Beyer on turf - such as Smart and Fancy, Cat on a Cloud, and Bikini Atoll - but with the exception of Smart and Fancy, they have not consistently done so on grass.

Adding to Ride Em Cowgirl's appeal is her versatile running style, a key in a race going 5 1/2 furlongs, a distance at which there is often a scramble for the lead.

Race 8, The All Along

Rutherienne (No. 9), a winner of 9 of 12 starts, including last year's Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, is the most probable winner. Coming off a third-place finish behind Precious Kitten in the Grade 1 Gamely after winning the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley, she looks ready for a peak performance.

That noted, she is a filly who tends to win races narrowly, and she has often capitalized on favorable trips. So I'll use her, but also throw a couple more on my pick-three ticket, hoping to catch a better price.

J'ray (No. 6), cutting back to 1 1/8 miles after weakening to sixth in the 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay May 24 at Belmont, looks interesting at a price, as does Valbenny (No. 8), who finished third in the Gallorette Handicap May 17 at Pimlico in her seasonal bow when experiencing a troubled trip racing behind a slow pace.

Race Nine, Colonial Turf Cup

Adriano (No. 10), who struggled over dirt in finishing 19th in the Kentucky Derby, should bounce back with a quality race with the return to grass, a surface on which he has won two races. He also won the Grade 2 Lane's End over Turfway's Polytrack in March.

Yet others have run as fast, if not faster, on turf, based on Beyer Speed Figures.

I'll spread out, using, in order of preference, Sailor's Cap (No. 9), Court Vision (No. 2), Nistle's Crunch (No. 6), and Kentucky Bear (No. 7).

Sailor's Cap and Nistle's Crunch come off second- and third-place finishes in the Crown Royal American Turf behind Tizdejavu, a subsequent four-length winner of the Jefferson Cup, and Court Vision and Kentucky Bear have shown promise in major dirt races and have pedigrees that suggest they could take to the grass.

* Using the horses outlined above, a $1 part wheel in the pick-three of 7 with 9,6,8 with 10,9,2,6,7 costs $15.