07/28/2005 12:00AM

River: Flip Side's revival continues

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When Flip Side finished eighth in an allowance at Beulah Park on Jan. 8, her third consecutive loss by a margin of at least 14 lengths, few observers would have considered her a contender to become the leading 3-year-old filly in Ohio this year.

Nearly seven months later, Flip Side will start in Ohio's richest race for 3-year-old fillies, the $75,000 Queen City Oaks at River Downs, as the solid favorite to defeat nine rivals at 1 1/8 miles.

Flip Side's transformation from also-ran to stakes winner may have its roots in trainer Bill Napier's decision in the spring to stretch her out around two turns. The results were immediate as Flip Side got her first-level allowance win going a mile and later won a pair of two-turn stakes, the Tomboy on grass and the Petro Memorial at Thistledown. Flip Side's only loss since April occurred, not surprisingly, in a six-furlong allowance sprint.

If Flip Side fails to hold her form, Napier might still end up winning the Queen City Oaks with Nitty Gritty, who has shown rapid improvement in the last couple of months. Though she finished third in Flip Side's allowance and Tomboy wins, and second behind her stablemate in the Petro, Nitty Gritty has shown that Flip Side's hold on the division might be tenuous. In each meeting, Nitty Gritty has lost by a shorter margin than the race before, with only a nose separating the two in the Petro.

Lori Wydick, who has ridden both fillies this year, will stay with Flip Side for the Oaks, while Nathan Solomon takes over the reins on Nitty Gritty. Because of different ownership, the fillies will be uncoupled.

Looking to spring the upset is Bold Passage, who returns to statebred company for the first time since winning the John Galbreath Memorial at Beulah last October. Bold Passage has raced sporadically since the Galbreath and was most recently third in a quickly run $50,000 claimer against older fillies on the turf at Arlington Park.