05/23/2007 12:00AM

Conditions right for Lemon Drop Gal


ELMONT, N.Y. - The presence of firm turf and the absence of Society Hostess should all play in Lemon Drop Gal's favor as the 5-year-old mare makes her seasonal debut in Friday's $65,000 Caress Stakes at Belmont Park.

The Caress, scheduled for six furlongs on the inner turf course, drew a field of 10. Lemon Drop Gal will break from post 5 under Kent Desormeaux.

Lemon Drop Gal, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, ran five times on the turf last year, winning twice and finishing second twice to the multiple stakes winner Society Hostess. Lemon Drop Gal's only bad start on the grass came in the Kattegat's Pride Stakes last November at Laurel when she caught a soft turf course and finished eighth.

"She had tailed off some by the end of the year and the course was spongy, and [jockey Julien] Pimentel said she never ran a jump," said Steve Moyer, assistant to Jerkens. "She wasn't quite herself and it was at the end of a long year."

After that race, Lemon Drop Gal was shipped to South Carolina, where she received 60 days off before resuming training again at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida.

"She's been working super," Moyer said. "Jimmy's been pointing to this for six or seven weeks. She likes it firm; she loves to skip over it. She should run big in that spot."

Queen Amira is another who will probably appreciate a return to firm turf. She finished last in the Mamzelle Stakes at Churchill Downs, a race run over a yielding turf course and one in which Queen Amira stumbled at the break. Queen Amira, trained by Bill Mott, figures to be on the pace under Garrett Gomez.

Mohegan Sky, a daughter of Straight Man, looks to bounce back from a disappointing third-place finish in the Lightning City Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on May 5. Prior to that, she had won two straight allowance races at Gulfstream Park. She did win a maiden race over this course going six furlongs last year.

Brushed Bayou is another who didn't seem to care for Tampa Bay, finishing sixth in the same stakes that Mohegan Sky was third in. Prior to that, Brushed Bayou also won two allowance races at Gulfstream. Javier Castellano was aboard for both of those allowance wins and is back aboard in this spot.

Latitude Forty is 3 for 3 over Belmont's turf course, but those races were run at a mile or beyond.