08/08/2006 11:00PM

Saratoga Stakes Play for Wednesday, August 9

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Wednesday's featured De La Rose Stakes for older turf fillies who have not won a stakes race this year does not seem like a terribly exotic event. Everyone can see that favorites Asi Siempre, Bright Abundance and My Lordship are the fastest fillies in the field, have been keeping stronger company, and are likely to combine in some fashion for short-priced exactas and trifectas. Nor is the race appealing to me as a pick-three or pick-four lynchpin, as it's preceded by a treacherous turf sprint and followed by an impossible statebred maiden turfer.

So let's instead return to the De La Rose itself and try to get one mildly interesting horse into the number along with the logical favorites. That horse is Virden, 6-1 on the line and the likely fourth or fifth choice in the betting.

At first glance, Virden might look like an easy toss. In a race where the three favorites routinely run Beyers in the high 90's, her career best is an 88. But here's my thinking:

First, Virden's 88 came last time out off a one-year layoff. When a horse runs a career-best race off a long absence, it can be a sign of a vastly improved animal ready to take a big step forward now.

Second, Virden's last race was her first for trainer Bobby Frankel. Nothing against Dan McFarlane, the Turf Paradise-based trainer who had her previously, but Frankel is a Hall of Famer with an m.o. of improving horses off other trainers.

Third, Virden has the rail in a one-mile race on the inner-turf course, and could be the controlling speed of the race after the late scratch of Radiant Avie. If not, Miss Matched, a mismatched longshot, may try to wing it. If so, Virden should be able to sit a perfect-trip second behind her and wait for her to throw in the towel.

If Virden's 6-1 or better, there's no law against making a win bet, but I'll primarily try to get her on the board in trifectas as follows:

$1 tri partwheel: 1/2510/258910=$12

$1 tri partwheel: 2510/1/258910=$12

$1 tri partwheel: 2510/258910/1=$12