11/11/2003 1:00AM

Salty Farma has eye on win

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When Salty Farma competes in Thursday's featured ninth race at Churchill Downs, no changes of equipment will be noted. Salty Farma, having worn blinkers in her last 14 races, will wear blinkers again in the one-mile turf race.

Those who take a closer look will notice something different, however. She will be equipped with a different set of blinkers, with a larger cup over her right eye.

The change is an effort to keep Salty Farma running straight. By partially obscuring the vision out of her right eye, trainer David Kassen hopes to stop her tendency of drifting out on the turn and into the stretch.

That habit was apparent in Salty Farma's last race, at Keeneland on Oct. 15, when she appeared home free on the lead under jockey Pat Day. She seemed to be going easily, but upon leaving the turn, Day had to struggle to prevent her from drifting out into opposing horses, instead of simply riding her to the wire.

Salty Farma was caught in the closing yards by Dick's Chick and finished second, beaten a neck. "If he had been able to let her run a little bit, she probably would have galloped," Kassen said.

He believes that by adding the large cup to Salty Farma's blinkers, the problem might be solved. She has trained well with the new blinkers, working six furlongs in 1:13.40 and a half-mile in a bullet 47.40 seconds over the Churchill Downs main track.

Working in her favor are the conditions of the ninth race, a $64,600 optional claimer for fillies and mares that have not won a race "other than maiden, claiming, starter, or statebred on turf in 2003." The majority of the entrants have struggled on grass this year.

Those who have not are running under the claiming conditions, meaning they start for $100,000 tags. One such horse is Golden Rhythm, a two-time stakes winner this year.

Golden Rhythm won the Margarita Breeders' Cup at Retama on Aug. 2 and the Sangue Handicap at Louisiana Downs on Aug. 16. Most recently, she finished sixth in the 1 1/2-mile Dowager Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 19. Corey Lanerie rides for trainer Paul Murphy.

Other contenders include stakes winner Maliziosa, who finished a neck behind Salty Farma when third Oct. 15 at Keeneland, and recent dirt allowance winner Miss Lodi, who outworked stakes-winning turf sprinter No Jacket Required in a five-furlong breeze over this turf course on Oct. 21.