11/20/2003 1:00AM

Riskaverse in Kentucky to do it again

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The last time trainer Pat Kelly shipped Riskaverse to Kentucky, she went home with all the money. On Saturday, more than 13 months after hitting that career pinnacle, the New York-based Riskaverse will be back in town as part of a terrific field of fillies and mares in the $150,000 at Churchill Downs.

Riskaverse is one of a handful of major contenders in the 30th running of the Grade 3 Cardinal, a 1 1/8-mile turf race in which Bien Nicole will start as the 120-pound highweight. Riskaverse, with 118 pounds, is second on the weights list.

In October 2002, Riskaverse, owned by Fox Ridge Farm and based at Belmont Park, rallied to narrowly win Keeneland's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, a Grade 1, $500,000 race that remains the highlight of her 20-race career. Since then, Riskaverse has run twice in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and although she was not a serious threat either time, she did run respectably, and she has amassed a bankroll of nearly $900,000.

Riskaverse drew post 1 in a full field of 12, plus one also-eligible.

Near the other end of the starting gate, Bien Nicole, a multiple graded winner of more than $1 million, will start from post 11.

Other strong threats in the Cardinal include Firth of Lorne, Janeian, and Quick Tip.

Firth of Lorne (post 2) is the wild card of the group, having had just two races, both in California, since coming under the care of trainer Eion Harty in the U.S. After losing as an odds-on favorite at Del Mar, Firth of Lorne scored a sharp triumph in a September allowance race at Bay Meadows.

Janeian (post 7) has less flashy credentials but still rates a decent chance, having won four of her last five starts since shipping out of California, where she failed to make it through her first allowance condition. Bret Calhoun trains her.

Quick Tip (post 12), the Cardinal's defending champion, is trained by Neil Howard and will be ridden by Shane Sellers, who has been out for two weeks with a bruised tailbone. Sellers has at least one other top mount on Saturday - Eugene's Third Son, a speedy 3-year-old who will be a heavy favorite in a $53,600 allowance one race before the Cardinal.

Churchill is expecting a big and early-arriving crowd Saturday because of a Funny Cide bobblehead giveaway. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.