10/27/2005 11:00PM

Areek needs best effort in First Flight

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Smokey Glacken, shown winning the Floral Park Handicap on Sept. 17. Areek finished second that day.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Areek has won a remarkable 5 of 7 starts in Florida, New Jersey, and New York this year. She will need that sort of consistency to have a chance in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 First Flight Handicap at Belmont Park.

Trained by Mark Hennig for Shadwell Stable, won two six-furlong stakes at Monmouth Park in July and August and was second to Smokey Glacken in the Grade 3 Floral Park Handicap over six furlongs on Sept. 17.

The form of that race has turned out to be productive. Smokey Glacken returned to finish second by a nose to Umpateedle in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs here Oct. 9.

Those three horses figure to dominate the betting in the First Flight, which is run over seven furlongs.

Hennig said he is hopeful that Areek, 4, will have an advantage over her opponents in the First Flight.

"I think the added distance will help," Hennig said. "She's been awful sharp this year. She really matured a lot. We figured she needs time between races, and that's helped. She's been more consistent."

The First Flight Handicap has drawn a strong field; six of the seven fillies and mares have won stakes this year. Habiboo has not won a stakes in 2005, but was stakes placed at Tampa Bay Downs in February.

has won 7 of her 14 starts. Owned by Susan and John Moore and trained by James Jerkens, she typically runs near the front and could face early pressure from Great Intentions, a restricted stakes winner last month.

is seeking her third consecutive win, having won the Endine Handicap at Delaware Park on Sept. 10. Trained by Mark Shuman for Michael Gill, Umpateedle is best as a stalker, a style that could be beneficial in the First Flight.

Areek has contested the lead and won, but may be best as a closer. She drew the rail in the First Flight, the third time this year she has drawn that position.

"She's run out of the 1-hole or the inside pretty well this year," Hennig said.

Lilah, Fifth Overture, and Travelator also start. Lilah won the Hurricane Bertie Handicap at Gulfstream Park in March, Fifth Overture won her fourth consecutive start in the Seaway Stakes at Woodbine in September, and Travelator won the Schenectady Handicap for statebreds here Sept. 18.