06/19/2009 12:00AM

Cocoa Beach shows up for tightener

Benoit & Associates
Cocoa Beach wins last year's Matriarch.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Cocoa Beach was an unexpected addition to the Sunday lineup at Belmont Park.

The outstanding 5-year-old from the Godolphin Stable turned up in an overnight stakes: the $65,000 Heatherten for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles It is not the kind of race, or modest purse, that normally attracts a two-time Grade 1 winner.

"We just wanted to get a run into her here before Saratoga came up," assistant trainer Rick Mettee said. "They had some bad weather down in Kentucky where she spent the winter. She was probably just a little further behind than we would like. We really weren't sure if this race would fill, or not. It seems like a good enough comeback spot for her."

Cocoa Beach will be making her first start since a stellar four-race campaign in the United States in which she posted three wins, losing only to Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.

It started with an overnight stakes similar to Sunday's, a five-length romp in the Love Sign at Saratoga.

For there, she stepped up to win the Grade 1 Beldame in the slop at Belmont. Cocoa Beach next shifted to the synthetic track at Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup before finishing with a Grade 1 turf win in the Matriarch at Hollywood Park.

The versatile mare launches her comeback here.

"Is she spot-on fit? Probably not," Mettee said. "She is probably close to what she was for the Love Sign. She is certainly fit enough for a comeback race. Off the Love Sign, she really went forward. We're hoping she does the same this year."

Potential targets ahead are a pair of Grade 1s on the opening weekend at Saratoga: the Diana on the turf and the Go for Wand.

Ramon Dominguez, aboard for the last four races, has the return call on the mare, who has never been worse than third in 12 starts in an international career that started in her native Chile, proceeded to Dubai, and has now taken her to the States

Cocoa Beach is slated to face five rivals, although that number could dwindle.

Winning Point was also entered as a main-track-only runner if the Grade 2 New York Stakes at Belmont comes off the turf.

Striking Tomisue, second to Cocoa Beach in the Love Sign, was cross entered Saturday in the Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park.

Rachel seems intimidating

"See Rachel Run" is one of the themes the Belmont marketing department is trumpeting to promote the presence of Rachel Alexandra in the Mother Goose Stakes on June 27.

Just how many 3-year-old fillies run against the Kentucky Oaks and Preakness winner remains in flux.

The commanding presence of Rachel Alexandra will probably limit participation.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin nominated four horses to the 1 1/8 miles race: Justwhistledixie, Dream Play, Pull Dancer, and Saarlight.

The decision process was easier before Rachel Alexandra entered the picture.

"Rachel Alexandra has halted my thoughts," McLaughlin said. "My mind is not working properly right now."

McLaughlin is discussing the race with West Point Thoroughbreds, the owners of Justwhistledixie, a rallying second last time out in the Grade 1 Acorn.

If the field comes up small, five or fewer, Dream Play could be lured in.

Other possible runners, according to stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, are Nassau County winner Flashing, Malibu Prayer, and Florida Oaks winner Don't Forget Gil.

"Obviously, there's Rachel Alexandra, but we're going into the race with our eyes wide open," said Mark Hennig, Don't Forget Gil's trainer. "She could get a Grade 1 placing if she's lucky enough to hit the board."