11/29/2006 12:00AM

Contessa picks up where he left off


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Gary Contessa began defense of his Aqueduct inner-track training title in fine fashion Wednesday, saddling three winners on the opening day card of the four-month meet.

Contessa, who won 61 races during the 2005-06 inner-track season, had nine horses entered for Thursday's card and put in another six for Friday. Among his sextet on Friday is Fighting Speedy, one of eight fillies and mares entered for the day's featured third-level allowance race at six furlongs.

The race also carries an optional claiming provision of $75,000, and three of the horses are entered for the tag. That includes Fighting Speedy, a 4-year-old New York-bred daughter of Senor Speedy whom Contessa claimed just eight days ago for $40,000 from Leah Gyarmati and Castle Village Farm.

"I'm running her back because races for good older mares are very few and very far between," Contessa said. "The fact that the race went and it's there and she come out of the [previous] race good, I'm going."

Fighting Speedy has been competitive in New York-bred stakes against the likes of Gold Like U, who is entered in this field. While both fillies have shown a fondness for the inner track, Fighting Speedy has been more successful on wet surfaces and there is rain in the forecast.

Ramon Dominguez, who won two races for Contessa on Wednesday, has the call on Fighting Speedy from post 2.

Ring True, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, is 2 for 2 over the inner track, including a victory in the Dearly Precious Stakes last Feb. 20. She won the Xtra Heat Stakes at Pimlico in April, but has not been out since a last-place finish in the Elizabeth Bay Stakes over Belmont's turf course on June 30.

Samsincharge won two route races over the inner track last winter, including a race in the slop and a race with similar conditions to Friday's. She has not been out since winning the seven-furlong Rogues Walk Stakes in gate-to-wire fashion at Saratoga on July 26. Pablo Fragoso rides Samsincharge from the outside post.

In the ninth race, an optional claiming race for New York-breds, Contessa runs Unswept for the first time since claiming him back for $25,000 in August at Saratoga. Contessa had him for a while last year before losing him for $25,000 in June. Unswept, who can be claimed for $50,000, is a confirmed inner-track specialist with a record of 7-2-2 from 14 starts on the surface. He will meet Strummer, who won last year's Jimmy Winkfield Stakes over the inner track.