01/07/2002 12:00AM

Contested pace favors Celtic Melody

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JAMAICA, N.Y. - What do you get when you cross a Dancing Fool with a Celtic Melody?

Certainly a memorable evening if that encounter takes place at an Irish pub. As it turns out, though, this particular meeting occurs Wednesday in Aqueduct's featured eighth race, and there is no cover charge.

On their best efforts, Dancing Fool and Celtic Melody are the fastest fillies in this third-level allowance, a six-furlong sprint that drew a field of six, along with Philadelphia Park shipper Missy Turtle, wet-track specialist Silent Serenade, Woodbine invader Small Promises, and the returning Dotsie's Doll.

Dancing Fool, a homebred daughter of Carson City from John Brunetti's Red Oak Stable, breaks from the outside post with Mike Luzzi and carries 123 pounds, giving the rest anywhere from three to five pounds. Trained by John Kimmel, Dancing Fool has run four of her five lifetime races on the Big A's inner-dirt track and has come away with three wins and a runner-up finish. Despite being a bit fractious at the gate in her return from a layoff last month, she was able to wire a field of second-level allowance sprinters enroute to a lifetime top Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

Indeed, Dancing Fool has won all three of her starts when able to get the early lead, but has lost twice when outsprinted to the first call. This raises the possibility of a difficult pace scenario for her Wednesday due to the presence of several other speed types: Missy Turtle's three wins have all been on the front-end, Silent Serenade is fresh off a wire-to-wire upset on the inner track last month, and both Small Promises and Dotsie's Doll usually contest the early issue.

Those dynamics could be a tactical advantage for the Jimmy Jerkens-trained Celtic Melody, but only if she runs back to her late-summer form at Saratoga, where she began her 3-year-old campaign with two high-figure allowance wins that suggested stakes quality. On each occasion, she stalked the early leaders from close range.

After her coming-out party at Saratoga, Celtic Melody finished a well-beaten third in Philadelphia Park's Cotillion Handicap on Oct. 6, and she was then idle for nearly 11 weeks before returning in a classified allowance on the inner track here Dec. 20. She was sent up to battle head-and-head while inside the 6-5 favorite, Major Wager, stumbled sharply while apparently trying to jump a shadow in the vicinity of the quarter pole, and faded to wind up next-to-last in a field of five.

Javier Castellano, who also rode Dancing Fool last time, has a return call on Celtic Melody, who will be second-time Lasix.