07/17/2002 11:00PM

Arnold has long-distance filly


ELMONT, N.Y.- Long or short?

For almost half a century, the distance of the Coaching Club American Oaks has shifted from 1 1/2 miles to a 1 1/4 miles and back as officials of the New York Racing Association search for the route which will please the majority.

Good luck. There is no sign of consensus among those who consider 12 furlongs too far and those who prefer the traditional distance of a championship Oaks race.

Nonsuch Bay, impressive winner of the recent Mother Goose Stakes, a nine-furlong bridge event to the CCA Oaks, is passing that race Saturday because of the distance and will wait for the 10-furlong Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 17. Trainer Frank Alexander feels there is no point in attempting to stretch out that filly when there are no more mile and a half races for the division.

But it is the mile and a half of the CCA Oaks that most appeals to trainer George "Rusty" Arnold , who will saddle Watts Humphrey's homebred Jaramar Rain and expects a top performance even though she has yet to win a stakes.

"Jaramar Rain is by Thunder Gulch, who won the Belmont Stakes at a mile and a half, in addition to the Kentucky Derby," Arnold says. "His dam, Jaramar Miss, is by Risen Star, who was also a winner of the Belmont. With that success on both sides of the family, this looks like the right spot for her."

Jaramar Rain made her debut at Saratoga last Summer and finished strongly along the inside to be third. It was a promising start but she chipped an ankle, underwent surgery, and was through for the season.

"She came back nicely this spring, won a couple of races in Kentucky, and encouraged me to try her in a small stake at Churchill Downs. She didn't act well in the paddock or at the gate and she didn't run well, either. We took some extra time, got her started again and she came through with a big effort at Belmont. She beat a nice field at nine furlongs by more than six lengths and we felt she deserved a shot at the CCA Oaks."

Not all of NYRA's 1 1/2-mile races are controversial. Several years ago, when a decision was made in favor of a major grass stakes at Saratoga, the value of the Sword Dancer was boosted to $500,000 and conditions were adjusted to make it an invitational race. It has developed steadily into one of the summer's important grass features, and one of the prospective invitees for the Aug. 10 running is Whitmore's Conn, winner of the recent Bowling Green Handicap here at Belmont Park for owners Lynn and Michael Shanley.

Michael Shanley, who manages real estate interest in the Albany, N.Y., area, has been active in racing for some 20 years. His best horse was Turk Passer, who won the Bowling Green in 1995 and also captured the Turf Classic and the Hialeah Turf Cup.

On the recommendation of bloodstock agent Mike Ryan, Shanley bought a Kris S. 2-year-old privately, named him for the two mothers-in-law, and turned the colt over to Scotty Schulhofer. Whitmore's Conn showed some promise last season at 3 but began to mature in earnest as he turned 4 this season. When Scotty Schulhofer retired at 75, his son Randy, his assistant for many years, took over as trainer.

Whitmore's Conn went off at almost 15-1 in the Bowling Green, relaxed nicely off the pace for Sean Bridgmohan, and then finished full of run for a decisive win over Staging Post, who placed in the San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita. It was a big performance and stamps Whitmore's Conn as on target for the Sword Dancer.