09/09/2002 11:00PM

Delray Dew back in town

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ELMONT, N.Y.- Gary Contessa believes his five rivals are in a no-win situation when they take on Delray Dew in a 1 1/16-mile classified allowance race, the feature race Thursday at Belmont Park.

"Let's put it this way, if somebody runs with her they're committing race suicide, and if they don't run with her they're in big trouble," Contessa said.

Delray Dew, a 4-year-old daughter of Devil His Due, returned to Contessa's Aqueduct barn three weeks ago after spending the spring and summer at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, where she won 3 of 6 starts including a pair of 1 1/16-mile stakes for trainer Dick Clark.

In April, Contessa had claimed Delray Dew for $45,000, and after winning a classified allowance race at Aqueduct with her, he shipped her to Prairie Meadows. Contessa said owner Maggie Moss asks that he send four or five horses to Iowa every summer.

"She handpicks them, and when the Prairie Meadows meet is over she sends them back," Contessa said. "She came back to me three weeks ago and she's been on fire."

Though lately she has had success around two turns, Delray Dew did win a one-turn mile race at Aqueduct where she beat the highly regarded Tugger in her first start off the Contessa claim. Delray Dew could face pace pressure from Textbook Method and Tax Affair.

That could set the race up for a closer such as Critical Eye or Royal Fact. Critical Eye has won the last two allowance races in which she has run, and is a Grade 1 winner over Belmont's main track. She is coming off a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

Royal Fact could be the value of the race. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Royal Fact has not been out since winning a third-level allowance race here on July 18. Wearing blinkers for the first time, Royal Fact raced up close and enjoyed a rail-skimming ride under Victor Carrero.

Jerkens, who said there were no spots for Royal Fact at Saratoga, felt the blinkers helped her focus more, and took away some of her inhibitions about racing on the inside.

"When a horse would pull up outside of her, " said Jerkens, "she'd get to putting the breaks on like she didn't like being down in there."

Breaking from the outside post in Thursday, Royal Fact figures to get an outside stalking trip under Carrero.

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