10/19/2004 11:00PM

Caught in the Rain steps up

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Caught in the Rain steps up in the Grade 3, $200,000 Violet Handicap Friday night at The Meadowlands Racetrack, following three stakes wins at Philadelphia Park.

Even with the recent success, trainer Guadalupe Preciado concedes the Violet will be "a little different" for Caught in the Rain.

Different, as in challenging.

The final graded stakes of the Big M meet attracted a strong field of fillies and mares. The Violet will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

will need a top effort against a very competitive group, topped by Ocean Drive, the 121-pound highweight.

Ocean Drive has earned almost $500,000 this year in a highly consistent campaign. She has not finished off the board in nine starts.

Her most recent efforts, Grade 3 victories in the Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap at Saratoga and the Noble Damsel at Belmont Park, have been her best.

earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Ballston Spa and topped that with a career-high 104 in the Noble Damsel. She even owns a win over the course, in the Salem County Stakes as a 2-year-old.

John Velazquez will ride.

Fast Cookie and Where We Left Off are next on the scale at 118 pounds.

was converted to racing on grass this year by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and responded with a pair of wins and a pair of seconds in five turf starts. Cornelio Velasquez has the mount.

Where We Left Off is also enjoying a fine season, with three wins in six starts. She captured Monmouth's Grade 3 Matchmaker and finished second in the Grade 3 Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga. Leading rider Joe Bravo will be aboard.

The Brazilian-bred filly High Court totes 117, with Richard Migliore set to ride.

Caught in the Rain comes next at 116. Her consecutive stakes wins came against Pennsylvania-breds.

"Her last two races she won pretty easily," said Preciado. "She's running well now and training good."

Caught in the Rain was fifth in last year's Violet but rebounded to win the Grade 3 Athenia Handicap at Aqueduct over soft turf.

A proven ability to handle any surface could be an edge for Caught in the Rain if the recent rainy pattern continues.

"She runs the same on any track, grass or slop," said Preciado. "It doesn't matter. I think if we had a little bit of wet grass, she would like that."

Victor Molina has the mount.

Changing World (113) and Smart N Classy (111) round out the field.