06/02/2004 12:00AM

Betting on Alta Aire leap of faith


CALGARY, Alberta - The decision to schedule the 16th running of the Lilac, a one-mile handicap for 3-year-old fillies, on Friday evening proved to be fortuitous as Smarty Jones will be attracting all the attention at Belmont the following afternoon.

The $40,000 Lilac, a coming-out party for the best of this division stretching out for the first time, is normally slated for the weekend, and this marks the first time in years a stakes will be conducted on a Friday at this meeting.

Alta Aire, a game second to Manitoba invader Ericka's Lass in the Mount Royal here May 16, will attract betting, but questions abound after the filly collapsed with what trainer Joan Petrowski described as "heat exhaustion" while pulling up after the six-furlong Mount Royal.

Petrowski said Alta Aire is fully recovered. She has given Rickey Walcott the return call aboard Alta Aire, the probable pacesetter, who breaks from post 3 in the field of nine.

Trainer Emile Corbel, who saddled Ericka's Lass in the Mount Royal, returns with Cypriata this time around, opting to leave Ericka's Lass at Assiniboia Downs. A Kentucky-bred by Seeking the Gold, Cypriata has the bloodlines to get the mile. She finished third in a five-furlong allowance at Woodbine last time out.

Cypriata drew the outside post and will be ridden by Mike Iammarino.

Down to Dixie is improving and makes her first start in a stakes. Shy Lil, a closing third in the Mount Royal, has the look of a filly wanting more ground.