04/19/2007 12:00AM

Dutrow: Best to come for Diamond Stripes

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It's hard to be better than perfect, but trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. thinks Diamond Stripes can be much better than he showed winning a third-level allowance race Thursday at Aqueduct. The win kept Diamond Stripes undefeated in four career starts.

"He still doesn't have his mind totally on things, but he's going to get there," Dutrow said after Diamond Stripes ran a mile in 1:36.03, beating Tasteyville by two lengths. "I'm looking for a big race next time."

Next time will be in a Grade 1 stakes, either the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16 or the Suburban Handicap - and a possible meeting with defending Horse of the Year Invasor - at Belmont Park on June 30.

On Thursday, Diamond Stripes, a 4-year-old gelded son of Notebook, was making his first start since winning the Grade 3 Pegasus at the Meadowlands on Oct. 6. He underwent ankle surgery shortly thereafter to remove a chip from an ankle.

Under Mike Luzzi, Diamond Stripes bore in at the start and bumped with Tasteyville. He then stalked Raceland through fractions of 24.12 seconds and 47.33 before taking over from Tasteyville at the eighth pole. Diamond Stripes had his ears up after making the lead and needed to be ridden out by Luzzi through the wire.

Luzzi told Dutrow that Diamond Stripes gave him about 70 percent of his ability in the race.

"When he makes the lead he just doesn't put an effort in, and that's fine because when he runs against good ones they are going to make him come after them, and he will," Dutrow said. "So he's got the talent in him. I'm happy with his race."

Among the horses Diamond Stripes beat was Sunriver, last year's Peter Pan winner, who was making his first start since the Jim Dandy last July. Sunriver was cut off at the start and never really got involved as he was beaten by 11 lengths.

Smart and Fancy takes Furlough

Smart and Fancy took over from pace-setting longshot Secret Brook at the three-eighths pole and cruised to a 3 1/4-length victory in Thursday's $65,950 Furlough Stakes. Grecian Lover rallied for second, finishing 2 1/2 lengths over Last Romance, who nosed out Ring True for third.

The victory was the eighth from 13 career starts for Smart and Fancy, a 4-year-old Maryland-bred daughter of Not for Love trained by Tony Dutrow for the Park Avenue Racing Stable.

Smart and Fancy ran six furlongs in 1:09.98 and returned $3.10 as the favorite.

The Furlough honored the Phipps Stable homebred mare who won the Grade 1 Ballerina in 1999. Thursday's sixth race was won by a filly named Pension, who is out of Furlough.

Johnstone joins NYRA staff

Bruce Johnstone has decided to stop training horses and was named to the newly created position of manager of racing operations for the New York Racing Association.

Johnstone, 63, will be working with racing secretary P.J. Campo, dealing with horsemen's issues and other things related to both the backside and frontside.

"Basically he's going to be working with me, take some responsibilities off my hands, kind of ease the burden a little bit," Campo said. "He'll go out in the mornings, speak to the trainers. I want to be out in the morning more times than I can, but I can't be in two places at one time.

"We haven't hashed out who is going to do what responsibilities, there are just so many departments and areas that fall under me. I think he'll be a good addition. I think he's very likeable, very respected, has good presence, and he knows the business and he has a little bit of a business background."

Johnstone has been training horses since 1980. He said he was planning to give up training horses this spring and this job was one of several opportunities he was exploring both in and out of racing.

"It's harder to be a little guy or a middle-class guy than it was," Johnstone said. "I feel like I have some qualities that maybe I can make a contribution where I can still be a valuable commodity. I always used to think it might be interesting at some point to work on the other side."

Johnstone begins his new job Wednesday.

Finlandia works toward Beaugay

Finlandia, a multiple turf stakes winner in New York-bred company last year, will make her 5-year-old debut against open company in next Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Beaugay Handicap.

On Thursday, Finlandia completed preparations for the Beaugay by working five furlongs in 59.68 seconds over Belmont Park's main track. It was the fastest of 23 moves at the distance and her third consecutive bullet work this month.

"She's doing sensational," trainer Tom Bush said. "She's doing more in her works than what I want her to. She never was that strong a work filly on dirt, but she's fresh."

Finlandia, a daughter of Royal Anthem, has not run since winning the Ticonderoga Handicap on New York Showcase Day last Oct. 21 at Belmont. Bush had shipped Finlandia to Southern California for the Dahlia Handicap on Dec. 18, but had to scratch her when she spiked a fever.

Bush left Finlandia with trainer Richard Mandella to possibly run in another race out West, but opted to skip that race as well.

* Keyed Entry, who finished fifth of six as the favorite in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, worked four furlongs in 48.55 seconds Thursday over Belmont's main track. He is being pointed to the Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester Handicap at Belmont on May 2.