08/11/2001 12:00AM

Arlington: Caressing returns to form

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The old Caressing, the one who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies' last fall, showed up again at Arlington Park, turning back a challenge from Gal On the Go to win the Grade 3 $125,000 Singapore Plate Stakes by a length.

Caressing ($4.60) may have been briefly headed in mid-stretch by Gal On the Go, but she re-rallied gamely along the inside and was going away at the wire. Gal On the Go, the second choice, was clearly second, with Scoop third. The winner ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:50.74.

The Singapore Plate may have been just what Caressing needed. The filly began her 3-year-old campaign on the wrong foot, when she got sick before she was to make her seasonal debut. She won her first start of the year, the La Troienne, but was badly beaten in two subsequent starts and was coming off a poor race when favored in the Delaware Oaks.

Caressing's connections, owner Carl Pollard and trainer Dave Vance, were somewhat mystified by the filly's recent struggles, and chose the Singapore Plate hoping to put Caressing in a winning spot, if not a top-class race.

Caressing, on the bit from the start, sat comfortably behind a contested half-mile was run in a quick 47.03 seconds. She moved outside to challenge the tiring speed on the far turn, and, according to Vance, loafed a bit before Gal On the Go loomed a threat in the final three-sixteenths of a mile.

With this win behind her, Vance and Pollard may point Caressing to more important races in the fall, though Vance will try to keep her separated from his other good 3-year-old filly, Unbridled Elaine.