03/25/2009 11:00PM

Slides Choice facing tough foes as '08 champ starts new year

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The first Ohio-bred stakes of the year looks to be a competitive one, as 10 Ohio-registered 3-year-old fillies will start Saturday in the $50,000 Royal North at Beulah Park.

Slides Choice, Ohio's 2008 champion 2-year-old filly, should be favored in the six-furlong event, but her 2009 debut will not be an easy one. A daughter of Devil His Due trained by Tim Hamm, she won at first asking last July 28 in the Tah Dah at River Downs, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Another Hamm trainee, Holy Harem, was the 1-2 favorite in that race but ran second to Slides Choice. A daughter of Holy Bull, Holy Harem is also in the field for the Royal North.

In Slides Choice's second start, the Miss Ohio at Thistledown on Aug. 23, she won by a half-length. She then ran second, beaten a head, in the $75,000 J.W. Galbreath on Oct. 4, the Best of Ohio race for juvenile fillies. In that 1 1/16-mile event, she was beaten by High Pins, another filly in the Royal North. Cesar Camaque will ride for the first time.

Yankee Cruz, the second-place finisher to Slides Choice in the Miss Ohio, should also be well backed in the Royal North. After finishing second to Slides Choice in the Miss Ohio (her race debut), she won an open maiden race at Presque Isle Downs on Sept. 10 and closed out her 2-year-old campaign with a 1 1/2-length win in an entry-level open allowance race at Mountaineer Park Nov. 18. Trained by Jevon Crumley, Yankee Cruz will be ridden by Weldon Cloninger. That jockey/trainer combo has won at a 31-percent clip at the Beulah meet.

Also in the field are Roxy Lady, S R Four Queens, Outlaw Lover, Legs Galore, Vic's Star, and Leslie's Alley Cat.