01/18/2007 12:00AM

Try Rivanna River vs. Over the Edge


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Take a glance at the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway on Saturday, and it becomes apparent that one filly is a probable winner: Over the Edge.

A first-out winner at Churchill Downs in November, earning a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, she finished a close second in the Gowell Stakes at Turfway Dec. 23, a race that likely provided her with the experience necessary for a move forward in the Cincinnati Trophy. It stands to reason. Over the Edge, like many fast debut winners, regressed significantly from a figure perspective in her second start, dropping to a 76 Beyer, but with that bounce now out of the way, now seems ready to run to her full potential.

The bad news is that there is no value in that opinion. She was 3-5 to win the Gowell, and she will likely be no more than even-money in the Cincinnati Trophy, even with the filly that beat her by a neck, Miss A. Bomb, returning to face her again.

Fortunately, there is an alternative who should offer a price: Rivanna River, who figures to go off at odds of 6-1 or 8-1. The reason? A dismal last race.

Running in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct Nov. 25, Rivanna River acted up in the gate, and after showing speed for about a half-mile steadily retreated to finish ninth, beaten 48 1/2 lengths. It was one of those races that was simply too bad to be true.

For those willing to forgive that effort, there are reasons to like her. For starters, she is back sprinting. When she raced in the Demoiselle, she raced around two turns, running 1 1/8 miles. The Cincinnati Trophy is at 6 1/2 furlongs, and she has already won at six and seven furlongs.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, she is returning to a Polytrack surface, a synthetic surface on which she had success last year at Woodbine. After running third on dirt over Woodbine's inner track over the summer, she won a pair of races on Polytrack, including an allowance race in sharp time Octo6.

That banner effort led to her being purchased privately last fall by Team Epona and Len Friedman of the Ragozin Sheets, and turned over to trainer Niall O'Callaghan.

Having spent the last month and a half regrouping, she should run significantly better Saturday than she did in the Demoiselle. Whether or not that is good enough to beat Over the Edge remains to be seen, but at a significantly better price, it seems a gamble worth taking. I'll play her to win and hook her up in an exacta box with Over the Edge.

Try Ballroom Deputy in Truly Bound

The 1 1/16-mile Truly Bound Stakes on the Fair Grounds main track also provides a favorable wagering opportunity, largely because several prominent contenders are more established racing on turf. Some have won off-the-turf races on dirt, but strong efforts in such races should not carry as much weight as top performances in regularly scheduled dirt races, which are typically tougher.

I like the true dirt horse Ballroom Deputy. A Grade 3 winner on dirt in Canada, she comes off a good 2006 campaign in Canada, where she ran either second or third in all seven of her races.

Catching what appears to be a pretty soft $75,000 stakes race, she has a good chance to get back on a winning track. Plus, she is already proven over the Fair Grounds surface, having won an allowance there in March of 2005, earning a career-best 96 Beyer. And she acts like a better mare now than she was at that time.

Miss Elsie at home at Oaklawn

A fondness for the racing surface should also benefit Miss Elsie in the six-furlong American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn. Although competitive wherever she runs, she wins with much greater frequently at Oaklawn than at other tracks. She is 5-2-0 in 8 starts at Oaklawn, compared to 1-4-2 in 12 starts on other surfaces.

This past year she kept some very tough company in the Northeast, running against the likes of Trickle of Gold, Stormy Kiss, and Malibu Mint, just to name a few. She was not too far behind those rivals, either. Racing in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss at Saratoga last summer, she finished just two lengths behind Stormy Kiss and Malibu Mint.

A mare with a versatile running style, she should get a nice stalking trip from the outside in a field that seems inundated with speed.

She looks good enough to handle her nine opponents, led by All for Fashion and Tax Refund.