07/03/2009 12:00AM

Caress distance suits Smart and Fancy


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Tony Dutrow said it was somewhat of a chore getting Smart and Fancy back to the races last year. It was worth the time and effort as Smart and Fancy went 3-2-1 from 6 starts and earned nearly $200,000.

This year, Dutrow said, it wasn't nearly as difficult to get Smart and Fancy back. She kicked off the year with a nose victory in The Very One Stakes at Pimlico off a seven-month layoff. She continues her 6-year-old campaign in Friday's $65,000 Caress Stakes, scheduled for six furlongs on Belmont Park's inner turf course.

The Caress tops a 10-race card that begins at 1 p.m. as twilight racing is shelved for a week due to the July 4 holiday.

Smart and Fancy has won 14 races and has finished worse than third only twice from 24 career starts. She ended 2008 with a nose loss to Diamondrella in the Xtra Heat Stakes. Diamondrella has won six straight, including the Grade 1 Just a Game. In The Very One at Pimlico, Smart and Fancy needed every inch of the five furlongs of the Pimlico turf course to win, while running the distance in a strong 56.76 seconds.

"Smart and Fancy is as good, if not better, than I've ever seen her," Dutrow said Wednesday. "As she's gotten a little older, she likes a little more distance, so 5 1/2 and six is better than five."

The Bobby Frankel-trained Modern Look is probably the horse to beat. A multiple group stakes winner in Europe, Modern Look won a restricted stakes at Santa Anita in March before finishing last in the Grade 1 Just a Game here on Belmont Stakes Day. Modern Look got extremely upset heading toward the gate for the Just a Game, which compromised her chances.

"They brought her up to the gate too early, she was nervous," said Ruben Loza, Frankel's New York assistant. "We're going to school her this week two days. She's been training good."

Three weeks ago, a race like this was taken off the turf due to rain. J Z Warrior rallied between horses to win the race and is back in again on Friday. Two starts back, she ran second on the turf, and is a logical selection on either surface.

Matchless Orinda, who finished third to J Z Warrior in the Glowing Honor, came back to win the What a Summer Stakes going six furlongs on dirt and is entered to run if this race is taken off the turf.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of trainer Bobby Frankel's assistant. He is Ruben Loza, not Reuben Lazio.