06/26/2003 11:00PM

Clearly a Queen returns from injury


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Owner John Franks and trainer Terri Pompay faced a difficult decision when Clearly a Queen fractured a sesamoid last summer.

They could have retired the mare, a winner of more than $500,000. Or they could gamble on a comeback for a 6-year-old season.

They opted to roll the dice, and the first opportunity for a payoff comes Sunday afternoon in the $50,000 Politely Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Clearly a Queen makes her first start since winning the Grade 3, $100,000 Eatontown Handicap last August at Monmouth.

On past form and class, Clearly a Queen ranks among the key contenders in the one-mile stakes for fillies and mares on the turf.

The question of fitness, given the long layoff, remains a concern.

"She might need a race," Pompay said. "It's been a long time, but she's training very well. We haven't had any problems with her. She's feeling great. I'm looking forward to her running a big race.

"If she comes back to be what she was, she's got the class. She really enjoys her job."

The decision to attempt the comeback was not a major gamble, according to Pompay, as the veterinary prognosis was encouraging.

"She took the top piece off her left sesamoid," Pompay said. "We did surgery and decided to give her a shot at a comeback. She's just such a classy filly. I had her with me the whole time. We've been taking our time getting ready."

Clearly a Queen started back with long, slow breezes at Gulfstream in February. Pompay planned to run her earlier in the meet, but the scarcity of turf racing because of persistent rain washed away that plan.

Clearly a Queen returns on her favorite course. She perked up on arrival at the Jersey Shore last summer. Clearly a Queen won 3 of 4 races, including the Grade 3, $100,000 Matchmaker Handicap, over the Monmouth course last summer.

"Mr. Franks thought she'd love this course," Pompay said. "I don't know if it was the barn or what, but she came back to life."

Clearly a Queen had been in a downward spiral after winning the 2001 edition of the Grade 3, $150,000 Violet Handicap at the Meadowlands for trainer Bobby Barnett.

Pompay got the mare the following season, and she wants to maximize Clearly a Queen's remaining starts.

"I figure this will be her last season before she goes to be a mommy," Pompay said.

Pompay hopes a big effort from Clearly a Queen will spark a comeback for her 40-horse barn.

One of the hottest trainers early in the 2002 meet, Pompay has been as cool as the rainy weather, with only two wins from her first 35 runners.

"The rain killed me," Pompay said. "I ran a lot of turf horses on the dirt just to get a start. That really hurt me."

Pompay continued, "Last year I was on fire; right now I'm kind of stagnant. I hope things turn around. Hopefully things will turn around, starting this weekend."

Enjoy out of Molly Pitcher

Enjoy suffered a chipped left ankle in a Friday morning gallop at Monmouth and was withdrawn from Saturday's Molly Pitcher Handicap.

The defection reduced the field to four for the Grade 2, $300,000 stakes for fillies and mares.

"She came off the track and there was something wrong," said trainer-owner Beau Greely. "We took X-rays, and they showed a small chip in her left ankle."

Early next week, Enjoy will ship to Kentucky for surgery. Greely hopes to have her back in action later this year.

Enjoy rallied for second behind Horse of the Year Azeri in her last race, the Grade 1 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The absence of Enjoy makes Summer Colony the overwhelming favorite in the Molly Pitcher.

Milestone for Bravo

Joe Bravo, back in fine form at Monmouth after two injury-plagued seasons, won two races Friday to become the first rider in track history to record 1,000 wins.

He reached the milestone in the eighth race aboard Shawnee Sunrise after surviving a claim of foul. Members of the jockey colony streamed into the winner's circle to celebrate the moment.

"It means I'm getting old," said the 32-year-old rider. "I'm very thankful to have friends who stuck behind me and gave me the mounts to win this many."