05/30/2012 2:30PM

Belmont Park: Sunlight Sonata will face battle up front in Friday turf sprint

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ELMONT, N.Y. – Sunlight Sonata, who was pulled up in a stakes three weeks ago but came back none the worse for wear, is the one to beat in Friday’s featured optional claiming sprint scheduled for the inner turf at six furlongs.

After a wire-to-wire win over maiden turf sprinters in her seasonal bow last year, Sunlight Sonata raced competitively in three stakes starts, among them the Lake George, in which she set the pace against multiple stakes-winning stablemate Winter Memories.

Sunlight Sonata returned from a nine-month layoff as the second choice in the May 12 Genuine Devotion overnight stakes. She was closest to eventual winner Going to Kukaro down the backstretch, but was pulled up around the turn by jockey Rajiv Maragh.

“Rajiv felt like she took a funny step, so better safe than sorry,” trainer Jimmy Toner said. “He came back and said, ‘Jimmy, she’s fine, she just took a funny step there.’ To me, it looked like she may have jumped a shadow, and sometimes when they do that, their footing isn’t too secure when they land.”

Sunlight Sonata showed no ill effects from that incident in a workout on the training track Sunday – a half-mile breeze that was fastest of 87 at the distance.

“She breezed great the other day – so far, so good,” Toner said.

Sunlight Sonata, who will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. on Friday, breaks from the far outside against 10 other turf-meant fillies and mares as she drops to the first-level allowance condition for the first time. She may have plenty of company up front as Ballistic Sue, Considerate, Princess Maura, Princess Phoebe, Strategic Missile, and Vindicated Ghost are usually forwardly placed as well.

The biggest stretch threats appear to be Sounds of the City and Vinda, off-the-pace winners in their only six-furlong turf starts at Belmont last year.

Sounds of the City is third back from a layoff for Alan Goldberg, after rallying to contention in midstretch and flattening out late at seven furlongs.

Vinda broke through the gate prior to the start and then came from dead last to win a starter allowance on this course last June for George Weaver. She raced wide from post 12 in her only start this year at Gulfstream Park.

Christina d’Oro and We Need V L T’s also entered for turf.

Miss Woods, Superior Sarah, Union Boss, and Victory for V L Ts entered dirt only.