09/17/2007 11:00PM

Astronomia no stranger to short rest

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - Several contenders in Thursday's $75,000 Valor Lady Stakes at Belmont Park return from layoffs, but the key to the six-furlong sprint scheduled for the inner turf is what to make of Astronomia, who wheels back for Godolphin Racing after finishing eighth in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Handicap.

Astronomia will be working on four days' rest, a spacing between starts more typical for major-league starting pitchers than for Thoroughbreds, but the New Zealand-bred mare did the same thing more than once in Australia: Running back on four days' rest as a 3-year-old in the Group 1 Victoria Oaks at Flemington, Astronomia finished fourth of 14; earlier that season she was beaten a half-length in the Group 1 Flight Stakes with a week between starts.

"We're planning on running," said Rick Mettee, who oversees Godolphin's local string for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "Basically, she's going to retire. This will be her last race, and the opportunity was there to run her. We were aware she had run well on short rest before."

Astronomia returned from a 361-day layoff to win her U.S. debut impressively at Saratoga, rallying from next-to-last to beat second-level allowance sprinters at 5 1/2 furlongs with a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. On the strength of that performance she was bet to second choice in last Saturday's one-mile Noble Damsel, but faded after racing close to the pace to the top of the stretch.

"We're hoping for a little firmer ground," said Mettee. "When Johnny [Velazquez] asked her to run at the quarter pole, he said there was more give than he thought, and she was scrambling around. For whatever reason, whether it was the stretch-out or the turf, she didn't run her race. She did come out of it good, though, and we're hoping for a better setup.

"She's probably better when she's got something to run at, but there doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount of early pace for one of these sprints."

With the exceptions of Solarana, an Argentine import winless from seven dirt starts in the U.S. and trying turf for the first time, and Costume Designer, who has not finished in the money this year, the others are right in the mix with Astronomia: Brazilian, Stormy Kiss, Mohegan Sky, Somethinaboutbetty, and Trouble Maker have produced turf figures in the 89-94 range this year.