05/28/2005 12:00AM

Wally's Choice tests veterans in Rasmussen


Free Bonus will be a big favorite in the First Lady at Indiana Downs.

Wally's Choice, a 4-year-old gelding, will be the youngest member in a field of eight when he runs in Monday's $50,000 1 1/16-mile Jim Rasmussen Memorial at Prairie Meadows. The average age of his seven rivals is 7 years old.

Trainer Mike Biehler was able to crank out nearly $200,000 in earnings from Wally's Choice last year by dodging the nation's top 3-year-olds and running instead in minor stakes. Wally's Choice won 5 of his 8 starts last year, including three derbies: the Minnesota, the Woodlands, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Oklahoma Derby in November at Remington Park.

Wally's Choice came to Prairie Meadows on May 10 to run in an allowance race, following two dull efforts against stakes company. He returned to form by overcoming trouble entering the far turn and rallied to a 2 3/4-length victory at a mile and 70 yards. Biehler has given Martin Escobar a return call aboard Wally's Choice on Monday.

The Maggi Moss-owned entry of Tricky Mocha and Silver Axe merits respect in the Rasmussen. Tricky Mocha has earnings of over $350,000 and has won 15 of 71 career starts. He has a record of 6-3-3 from 14 starts here, including a front-running victory in last July's $75,000 Prairie Meadows Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

A 9-year-old conditioned by Dick Clark, the leading trainer at Prairie Meadows, Tricky Mocha finished third, beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Wally's Choice, in the May 10 allowance race last out. Tricky Mocha's regular rider, Glenn Corbett, has the mount in the Rasmussen.

Moss claimed 8-year-old Silver Axe for $35,000 in March at the Fair Grounds and turned him over to trainer Tom Amoss. Silver Axe responded in his first start for the new connections, scoring an 11 1/4-length victory over $40,000 claimers at Keeneland on April 9 and earning a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure.

Silver Axe, who has won 9 of 53 career starts and has nearly a half-million dollars in earnings, has since finished third in an $80,000 optional claiming event at Churchill. Tim Doocy picks up the mount on Silver Axe on Monday.

Magic Doe, 10, is the field's leading money earner, having banked $780,411 in his 88-race career. He nearly pulled off a 31-1 upset in his most recent start, setting the pace in the $100,000 Milwaukee Avenue for Illinois-breds at Hawthorne before settling for second, beaten 2 1/4 lengths. Cindy Noll has the call on Magic Doe for trainer Jim McCoy.