06/04/2003 11:00PM

Thistledown: Beat the champ

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - The five Ohio-bred distaffers who will face Ashwood C C in the $50,000 Merry Time Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Saturday will have to beat the 2002 Ohio-bred champion handicap mare at her best game - going a middle distance.

Ashwood C C, by Cryptoclearance, has been very consistent throughout her four-year racing career, posting a 12-10-4 record from 33 starts for earnings of $394,599.

A multiple stakes winner, she has made three starts this year. After finishing second in two quick sprints here, she went to Mountaineer Park where she won the one-mile Decoration Day Handicap by 3 3/4 lengths. Ashwood C C likes to run on the lead and should have little difficulty wiring this field. She is co-highweighted at 122 pounds and will be ridden by Luis Gonzalez.

Her main opposition is likely to come from Crypto's Twinjet, who was Ohio's top 3-year-old filly last year when she won three stakes races and was disqualified from victory in the Queen City Oaks at River Downs. She was unplaced in her 2003 debut at River Downs on the grass and should be ready for a top effort. Ivan Gonzalez will ride for trainer Luis Palacios.