A dozen horses are scheduled to start the 60th running of the $15,000 Virginia Gold Cup, a four-mile open timber steeplechase Saturday. The race, over 23 solid timber fences, is being run for the first time at the new Great Meadow course after being run at Warrenton's Broadview course for more than a half-century.

Cookin N Lookin, recently named 1985 Timber Horse of the Year, will be ridden by Patti Cassel rather than owner Paul C. Cramer Jr., who captured the Seven Corners owner-rider series aboard the 12-year-old gelding. Cassel schooled the horse Wednesday but has never ridden him in a race.

"I gave him a short workout over five fences and a short gallop," Cassel said today. "The horse is in really good shape. Paul's done a really good job with him." Cassel said distance could be the deciding factor and that Cookin N Lookin's longest race this season has been only 3 1/4 miles.

"He should do really well if he can go the full four miles. But we have some tough competition," said Cassel, who will carry 47 pounds of lead to make the 155-pound weight class.

The toughest competition probably will come from 1982 Gold Cup winner Prince Siran, with Paul Sloan aboard, and Dr. Joe Rogers' 1983 Gold Cup winner Private Gary, with 1985 rider of the year D.M. (Speedy) Smithwick. Also entered are Carlo Friend, Hamid, Tigre's Houdini and Freeman's Hill.

Post time for the first race on the seven-card program is 1:30 p.m.