10/02/2001 11:00PM

Caressing tops Indiana Oaks


ANDERSON, Ind. - For the second straight year on Friday, the reigning Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies champion will run in the $200,000-added Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks at Hoosier Park.

This year it's Caressing, who tops a field of nine 3-year-old fillies in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks. Cash Run, the 1999 BC Juvenile Fillies winner, finished fifth in this race a year ago.

The Indiana Oaks has earned Grade 3 status this year, and its purse includes $50,000 for Breeders' Cup eligibles.

Caressing, owned by Carl Pollard and trained by David Vance, has Grade 3 victories this year in the La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Singapore Plate at Arlington Park. But sandwiched between those victories were dull efforts in the Acorn, the Delaware Oaks, and, most recently, the Gazelle.

In the Sept. 8 Gazelle at Belmont, Caressing prompted the pace for a half-mile before fading to sixth.

Rene Douglas, Arlington Park's leading rider, will be in ride to Caressing at 121 pounds. She breaks from the inside post.

Although none of Caressing's challengers have won a graded stakes, any of the eight of them is eligible to pull the upset.

Curious Conundrum has specialized in throwing a scare into the competition at huge prices. Trained by Eugene Brajczewski, Curious Conundrum forced the pace and grabbed a short lead an eighth of a mile from home in the 1 1/8-mile Pucker Up on the turf at Arlington Sept. 15. She was overtaken late and finished fifth, beaten only two lengths at 81-1. Before that, she upset 3-10 favorite Momentous at 33-1 in the Prairie Meadows Oaks on Aug. 25. Jon Court will ride from post 2.

Also likely to receive support at the windows are Scoop, trained by Gene Cilio, and Irish Fantasy, trained by Dale Romans.

Scoop, to be ridden by Robby Albarado, won the Flawlessly Stakes at Arlington Park and the National Jockey Club Oaks at Sportsman's Park this year. Irish Fantasy, with Justin Vitek set to ride, was fourth to Caressing in the La Troienne. Most recently she was beaten a nose in allowance company going a mile at Turfway Park in her first try at a distance of ground.

*Also on Friday, Ham and Eggs, a winner of two straight this year, should receive heavy support in the $40,000-added Vincennes Stakes for 3-year-old statebred fillies going six furlongs.

*Miss Indiana should be heavily favored in the $30,000-added City of Anderson Stakes for 2-year-old Indiana-bred fillies. After winning her maiden at Keeneland in April, Miss Indiana won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Saratoga by three lengths Aug. 29. She then finished seventh in the Arlington-Washington Lassie.