01/17/2008 12:00AM

Tammy's Victress a tempting price play


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nothing in the individual past-performance lines of Coolwind suggests she is vulnerable in Saturday's $60,000 Truly Bound Handicap at Fair Grounds. She is in peak form, comes off a 91 Beyer Speed Figure, and is battle-tested in tough company, having won stakes and placed in graded events.

Yet vulnerable she appears to be, due to drawing the far outside post in a field of 11. Her post is further worsened by the fact that her pace-pressing running style is so similar to other fillies and mares in the field.

Chances are, with a short run to the first turn in 1 1/16-mile races at Fair Grounds, she is going to be fighting for a pressing or stalking position with several other horses - meaning she will likely have a wide trip. That is enough reason for me to take a shot at beating her.

My choice is the up-and-coming Tammy's Victress, who has blossomed over the past seven months since being stretched out to two turns. In 6 routes, she has 3 wins, 2 seconds, and a close fifth in stakes company.

Granted, she has not won a stakes race - or even placed in one - but in winning a third-level allowance over Spirited Away and Superb Ravi, two other starters in the Truly Bound, she gave the appearance of a filly with stakes potential.

In contrast to Coolwind, she received a favorable draw in post 3, which should allow jockey Gabriel Saez to secure a good stalking position.

She also starts for a hot barn. Trainer Larry Jones entered Thursday's races at Fair Grounds with an 8-for-40 record, good for a 20opercent win mark, and another seven runners had finished second - meaning nearly 38 percent were a part of the exacta.

Tammy's Victress is no standout. Value is largely the reason to like her. Without any flashy Beyers and with limited stakes experience, she will probably stick to her morning line price of 6-1, or drift higher.

Don't underrate Country Diva

As at Fair Grounds, older fillies are showcased at Oaklawn on Saturday in the six-furlong American Beauty.

My choice is Country Diva, a winner of three of her last four starts. Despite her sharp form, I expect her to be only a mild favorite. The reason? She has done most of her running at Mountaineer Racetrack, which is perceived by many horseplayers to offer a lower quality of racing than Oaklawn.

Top to bottom, that assessment of the two tracks is probably correct - but it is unwise to downgrade or dismiss horses coming off stakes victories at Mountaineer, provided they faced legitimate fields and won in good time.

Fabulous Strike, one of the best sprinters of last year, is a good example. He ran up some monster numbers with big front-running stakes victories at Mountaineer in late 2006 and early 2007, and he ended his year in 2007 by winning the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park.

Country Diva is not remotely in Fabulous Strike's class. But she is a solid, quick sprinter. She won the American Beauty last year as a longshot when she was in lesser form, and as sharp as she is right now, she has a strong chance to score a repeat victory in this stakes.

Cool Coal Man legit favorite

The focus is on the 3-year-olds at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, beginning with the Gasparilla Stakes for fillies and following a couple of races later with the Pasco Stakes for the boys.

Although unlikely to be much of a price, Cool Coal Man looms as a standout in the Pasco and is a good horse to single in multi-race gimmick wagers.

A speedy and talented colt who could prove a force on the Kentucky Derby trail as the year progresses, he can be forgiven for a poor showing in his last race, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24.

He, along with two others, engaged in a battle for the early lead, establishing fractions of 46.94 seconds and 1:11.56 in the 1 1/16-mile race. This left him and the other front-runners leg-weary, and they all folded in the stretch.

The other speed horses that got caught in the pace battle have returned to perform well. Halo Najib, who ran fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club, was subsequently third in the Grade 2 Hutcheson, and Mythical Pegasus, the seventh-place finisher, ran a decent third in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 4.

Cool Coal Man, the class of the Pasco Stakes, should return to form and pick up a victory in his 3-year-old bow.