07/25/2007 12:00AM

Codi Dee shortens up in return race

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - There's no disguising the fact that Friday's Sonoma County Fair feature, a five-furlong $25,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares on the turf, is a prep race for Codi Dee.

The 5-year-old mare makes her first start since winning a one-mile allowance race at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 28, when she had to hurdle fallen horses and saw her jock lose his irons.

The question handicappers must answer is: Can she win her comeback on turf, a surface she's never won on, and at a shorter distance than is optimum for her?

Even trainer John Buc isn't sure what the answer is.

"I wouldn't be surprised if she won," he said, "but I wouldn't be surprised if she was fourth or fifth, either."

Codi Dee ran third to Bai and Bai and Victorina in the Muir Woods Stakes before her allowance victory.

"I'm very pleased the way she ended her campaign last year," Buc said. "She matured a little bit, got bigger and stronger, and focused better. Little things that can make a difference between finishing first or second or fourth didn't bother her."

Codi Dee has trained well for Friday's comeback, and Buc considered running her in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Luther Burbank before going a more conservative route.

"It was either this or the stakes race," Buc said. "She really tries hard, and we've worked so hard to get her back, we didn't want her to knock herself out in her first race."

Codi Dee's outside post should help her keep clear behind the leaders. She will likely make a late move.

"I know she'll make a strong move the last three-eighths," said Buc, who added that she might need a race before running her best.

Friday's race drew nine entrants.

In addition to Codi Dee, Lake Cascade also makes her comeback here. She hasn't run since Sept. 17. Lake Cascade won both her starts sprinting as a

3-year-old last year and makes her turf debut.

Meet Me in Fargo brings in a three-race win streak from Prairie Meadows.

On Duty, ninth after setting the pace in the Sweepida on June 23 but second in an Emerald Downs stakes in her previous start, could be the one to catch from the rail.