06/24/2004 12:00AM

Riskaverse must catch Sand Springs


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - She came and conquered each of the last two last falls, and now Riskaverse is back in Kentucky wanting to do more. And from the looks of what she has to do Saturday in the $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs, it appears another victory could be imminent for one of the most honest turf mares around.

, bred and owned by Fox Ridge Farm and based at Belmont Park with trainer Pat Kelly, first traveled to Kentucky in November 2002, winning the Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland. She returned last fall to defeat a solid field of fillies and mares in the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap here at Churchill. This time, after having finished a respectable fourth behind Intercontinental in the Just a Game Handicap on the June 5 Belmont Stakes undercard in her first start in 6 1/2 months, Riskaverse seems to be in a comfortable spot after drawing post 2 in a field of seven entered in the Grade 3 Locust Grove.

Pat Day has accepted the mount on Riskaverse, who has amassed earnings of just over $1 million with seven wins, four seconds, and four thirds from 22 starts. A 5-year-old Dynaformer mare, Riskaverse has competed in the last two runnings of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and Kelly has made a third and final berth in the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup the ultimate goal for this year for his star mare.

Riskaverse has a grinding style that should have her poised to make an effective run in the final quarter-mile of the Locust Grove, a 1 1/8-mile race that almost surely will have Sand Springs as the one to catch.

, bred and owned by Peter Willmott and trained by Tony Reinstedler, ran superbly when narrowly beaten in the last filly-mare turf stakes here, the May 29 Mint Julep Handicap. Mark Guidry, the regular rider of Sand Springs, was particularly impressed that day, and Reinstedler said he expects an even better effort Saturday.

The others in the field are Modena Bay, Halory Leigh, Ocean Silk, Shaconage, and Two Dot Slew.

The Locust Grove, named for the Louisville estate of Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark, is the race that the African superstar Ipi Tombe won last year under Day in her only race in the United States. Ipi Tombe came out of the race with a leg injury that ultimately led to her retirement.

The Locust Grove is the ninth of 10 Saturday races on a program that also includes two allowances (races 3 and 7). First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.