09/20/2001 12:00AM

Thistledown: Mercer's Launch is favored


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Mercer's Launch, third in the Tah Dah Stakes in her last start here July 21, should be favored Saturday at Thistledown, matching strides with five other Ohio-bred 2-year-old fillies in the $30,000 Emerald Necklace Stakes.

Mercer's Launch won at first asking at River Downs, then was unplaced here in the Cleveland Kindergarten before her race in the Tah Dah. She has the speed to be on or near the lead and should prove hard to chase down. Jason Eads rides for trainer Jeffrey M.Williams.

Ohio Ann finished fifth in the Tah Dah. Like Mercer's Launch, she has a good turn of speed. Trainer Robert B. Connelly will have Scott Saito aboard.

Little Forest was a game second in her career debut and could be a factor.

Macho Uno is a definite starter in next Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Ohio Derby. Two others have committed to the race: West Virginia Derby winner Western Pride and On the Game, who has won three of his four career starts, all at Woodbine.

Racing Secretary Bill Couch said that he has four other strong possibilities. A pick-four will be added to the betting format on Ohio Derby Day. Two of the races in the pick four will be the Ohio Derby and the Adena Springs Matchmaker Sprint.