07/11/2002 12:00AM

Virginia race a difficult puzzle


Orchard Park has the most wins on turf and is a two-time graded stakes winner. Flying Dash owns the best Beyer Figure and has not been beaten to the wire in two starts since coming to North America. And Kris's Prayer appears to be the best-bred horse for 10 furlongs.

Those conflicting pieces of evidence make for a difficult puzzle for handicappers in Saturday's $500,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs.

The 12-race card also includes the Grade 3, $150,000 All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares, and the $50,000 David "Zeke" Ferguson Memorial, a Grade 3 steeplechase.

Seven 3-year-olds, all attempting 1 1/4 miles for the first time, are entered in the fifth running of the Virginia Derby. A convincing case can be made for at least three runners.

Orchard Park, trained by Bill Mott, has won 4 of 5 starts this season, including Grade 3 stakes in Florida and Kentucky. In his most recent start, the 1 1/8-mile Jefferson Cup on June 8, Orchard Park launched his typical sweeping move and outkicked the competition, earning a career-best 93 Beyer.

Flying Dash, trained by Neil Drysdale since arriving from Germany, has been dominant in his first two United States races, drawing off by 2 1/2 lengths in the one-mile Transylvania at Keeneland, worth a 103 Beyer, and finishing three lengths in front of his six rivals in the Hawthorne Derby in Chicago two months ago. Illegal drugs were detected following the Hawthorne race, however, and Flying Dash was disqualified from all purse money. Drysdale has appealed the stewards' ruling.

Based on Tomlinson distance ratings, Kris's Prayer towers over the field with a 380. He improved his Beyer to a 93 when stretched out to nine furlongs for the first time in last month's Choice Stakes at Monmouth Park.

New York shipper Golden Corona looks like the class of the field in the All Along, a 1 1/8-mile turf stakes. The 4-year-old Golden Corona has earned the two best Beyers of her career - 99 and 98 - in her last two starts against graded stakes company. Six weeks ago, she finished third in a three-horse photo in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay.

Her keenest competition could come from Lady of the Future, a winner at nine furlongs in the New Castle at Delaware in her last start and 2 for 2 over Colonial's turf course; and Caught Out, a Michael Dickinson-trained filly who has won four in a row, including two stakes.

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