06/14/2001 11:00PM

Donk's Revived Ruff faces pace problem

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ELMONT, N.Y. - David Donk says he erred by running Ruff three times in six weeks this winter at Gulfstream. To correct the mistake, Donk has given the filly plenty of time to recoup and prepare for the second half of the year.

Donk hopes the freshening starts paying dividends on Sunday when Ruff takes on nine rivals in the $100,000 Sands Point Stakes, a Grade 3 race for 3-year-old fillies scheduled at nine furlongs over Belmont Park's inner turf course.

Ruff was victorious in her only other nine-furlong try over Belmont's inner turf, winning the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes last October. Shortly thereafter, Donk took Ruff to Florida where she had mixed success.

On Jan. 21, Ruff finished a well-beaten third behind Mystic Lady in the Herecomesthebride Stakes, which was rained off the turf. On Feb. 9, Ruff overcame traffic trouble to rocket past virtually the entire field in the stretch when she won the Via Borghese Stakes.

On March 21, Ruff finished eighth as the even-money choice in the Gaily Gaily. Although Donk said she didn't run a jump that day, Ruff was beaten only 2 3/4 lengths by OK to Dance, who won the Palisades at Keeneland in her last out.

"I think I ran her back too soon, three times too close together," Donk said. "I hope she's as good a filly as she was last year. I'd like to see her improve on that and I think she can."

Donk doesn't believe fitness will be a problem for Ruff, whom he believes is a natural distance horse. John Velazquez rides from post 6 under 119 pounds.

Ruff must overcome a slow pace in the Sands Point. Of the 10 entrants, only Tweedside and Vangelia show a tendency to race near the front and neither are what you would call speedy.

Heads Will Roll, Platinum Tiara, and Freshwater Pearl figure to vie for favoritism in the Sands Point. Heads Will Roll, who drew post 10 for Bobby Frankel, has finished in the money in three stakes tries since coming to this country.

Platinum Tiara, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, has a win and a second in two turf efforts. Her second came against older horses and to stablemate Silver Bandana in a race where Platinum Tiara was jostled quite a bit, according to trainer Joe Waunsch. Platinum Tiara is the 122-pound highweight under Tommy Turner from post 7.

Freshwater Pearl, an Irish-bred is 2 for 2 on turf including a preliminary allowance win over this course on May 13. Jerry Bailey has the call for Bill Mott from post 2.