08/21/2003 12:00AM

Sly Lady must be at her best


EDMONTON, Alberta - The $75,000 Edmonton Distaff, on the Canadian Derby card at Northlands Park on Saturday, features Sly Lady, who is unquestionably the top older filly or mare in the province. But Sly Lady, trained by Ron Grieves, will have some significant obstacles to overcome in the 1 1/16-mile race.

The first is the loss of valuable conditioning time since her last start July 19. She has had a serious throat infection that forced her to stay for one full week at a veterinary clinic, where she lost a significant amount of weight.

The second obstacle Sly Lady faces is that she'll give up seven pounds to Slewability and will have a double-digit weight disadvantage against the rest of the field.

The Alberta-bred Sly Lady will carry 126 pounds, the same weight as the horses entered in the Canadian Derby.

"She's giving up seven to 14 pounds, and that's huge for any horse," said Grieves.

"The horses she's giving 14 pounds to are claimers, so that shouldn't matter. It's the other horses, like Northern Neechitoo, that we'll be giving up 11 pounds to.

"True, she hasn't won a stake in two years, but Northern Neechitoo is still probably the second-best older mare in Alberta, and that kind of weight is a significant factor."

This will be an interesting test for a horse Grieves describes as "a real sweet girl." But whether she wins or not, Grieves says Sly Lady has already proved she is the class of the division in Alberta and likely western Canada.

"I think she's already answered the question of who's the best filly in Alberta, but winning with that weight might make her the best horse in the province in general," he said. "We've done all we can, and on Saturday we'll find out if she's good enough or she's not."