05/03/2006 11:00PM

Stablemate is Behaving Badly's main threat

Behaving Badly wins the Grade 3 Las Flores in February under Victor Espinoza, who will be aboard again Saturday for the Grade 1 Humana Distaff.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As strong a hand as Bob Baffert may possess in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, the cards he has to play in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff a few hours earlier are even better.

In Behaving Badly, Baffert sends out the mare with the best early speed, not to mention the best record. In Pussycat Doll, Baffert sends out the filly with the best closing kick. The Grade 1 winners will be separate betting interests in the $250,000 Humana, run at seven furlongs over Churchill's main track.

A field of nine was entered for the Humana, though Leave Me Alone, winless since taking the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga last summer, was expected to run Friday in the Louisville Breeders' Cup.

, a New York-bred daughter of Pioneering, is 7 for 9 and has won her last four races. Her only bad performance came last fall, the last time she shipped to Kentucky, when she finished eighth of 10 in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland.

"That was Keeneland, and she wasn't doing that well at the time," Baffert said. "Trainer error. She's sitting on go."

Behaving Badly is the 122-pound highweight and will break from post 7. She will be spotting the rest of the field 3 to 13 pounds.

At 119 pounds, is the second highweight and the biggest threat to Behaving Badly. Two starts back, on Dec. 31, Pussycat Doll came screaming from off the pace to win the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 112, the best number earned by any runner in this field.

Baffert stretched her out in the Grade 2 La Canada, a race in which Pussycat Doll finished fourth after being involved in a hot early pace duel.

Two upset contenders are . Splendid Blended was a multiple Grade 1 winner around two turns for Neil Drysdale last year. Owner Peter Vegso sent her to trainer Bill Mott on the East Coast over the winter. She has sprinted twice, including a victory in the Grade 2 Shirley Jones at seven furlongs.

"Her first race we backed her up to 6 1/2 furlongs and she had never raced less than a mile, so we threw something at her she wasn't prepared for," Mott said, referring to her sixth in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. "We worked her [Tuesday] and she went great. She's a top-class mare."

Bending Strings won the Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes, a one-turn mile race, over this track last fall. Last spring, she was a close fourth in the Humana.

The field

Humana Distaff Handicap
Purse $250,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 1

1Eastern LilyJ. McKee10930-1
2Malibu MintJ. Leparoux11330-1
3Leave Me AloneK. Desormeaux1173-1
4Nossa CancaoO. Vergara11320-1
5Splendid BlendedE. Prado1197-2
6Atlas ValleyJ. Castellano11415-1
7Behaving BadlyV. Espinoza1222-1
8Pussycat DollG. Gomez1193-1
9Bending StringsC. Nakatani115 15-1

* Track odds
* Television: Saturday, 3-5 p.m. Eastern; ESPN