07/18/2007 12:00AM

Ethan's Car looks for spot in stakes


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Dick Small was already on his way to Belmont Park from Maryland on Wednesday morning when he got word the card had been cancelled due to severe thunderstorms that flooded the area.

"Fortunately, I was just getting started," Small said. "I didn't get too far."

His filly Cozy Gain was already at Belmont, waiting in vain for the Drum Tap Stakes slated for that afternoon.

Small is hoping for better weather Saturday for the $60,000 Serena's Song Stakes at Monmouth Park for 3-year-old fillies. Small is considering that spot for Ethan's Car, a versatile daughter of Cat Thief out of Broad Gains, who is by Broad Brush, Small's great handicap runner in the late 1980s who won 12 stakes, including the Meadowlands Cup.

Ethan's Car has hit the board in stakes race on dirt and turf. Most recently, she finished third in Monmouth's Without Feathers Stakes on the main track on June 23.

Ethan's Car and the other five fillies in the Without Feathers wound up chasing runaway winner Exchanging Fire, who led every step in a 5 3/4-length romp at 29-1.

"The horse is doing great," Small said. "I'm going to take a look at the race and see if it's a good spot."

Other possible runners, according to Monmouth stakes coordinator Mike Melendez, include Exchanging Fire, Precious Princess, and Lady Marlboro.

Exchanging Fire on a roll

The Serena's Song is the prep race for the biggest 3-year-old filly stakes of the meet, the Grade 3, $200,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks on Aug. 12.

Another strong effort by Exchanging Fire in the Serena's Song would put the former claimer in the Oaks mix.

Owner Robb Levinsky, chairman of Kenwood Racing, and trainer Steve DiMauro claimed Exchanging Fire for $50,000 at Gulfstream Park in early March.

"She looked like a filly who could rate and had natural speed, and that's a hard combination to find," Levinsky said.

Exchanging Fire has 3 wins and 2 seconds in 5 starts since the claim, including the career-best effort last time out in her stakes debut in the Without Feathers.

She transferred to trainer Steve Mick when she came north from Florida for her last three races.

The Without Feathers was an important test; so is the Serena's Song.

"We didn't think she was a whole different level of horse until the last race," Levinsky said. "She's training so well we think she has a chance to be competitive in the Monmouth Oaks. That is the obvious next step, if she performs like we think she will.

"We put together a good plan and wanted to let her prove her way into each step."

The three-race plan is the Serena's Song, the Monmouth Oaks, and the $500,000 Cotillion Handicap at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 22.

"If at any point on that path she doesn't do well, she doesn't go on," Levinsky said. "She would drop back to the right level. The way she's trained and the way she won that race, we think she's a special horse."

In addition to managing Kenwood's 10-horse stable, Levinsky is an investment adviser who lives in nearby Asbury Park, N.J.

Lezcano returning from injury

Jose Lezcano was expected back Thursday. Fourth in the Monmouth standings, Lezcano has not ridden since July 8.

"He had a back injury and he's ready to return," said Jason Beides, Lezcano's agent.

Bestowed one to beat on turf

There was no turf racing at Monmouth on Wednesday following a morning deluge, and the track announced that Thursday's two grass races also are off the turf.

So what will Friday bring for the featured $40,000 second-level allowance at one-mile on the turf?

If the race remains on the grass, Bestowed looks very tough following a nose loss here in a similar race June 29 as the 3-5 favorite.

Joe Bravo, the leading rider at the meet, picks up the mount from trainer Michael Dickinson.

The race also attracted three main-track-only entrants, with Afleet Tiger the most interesting. Claimed two starts back for $16,000 by trainer Patricia Farro, Afleet Tiger scored a first-level allowance win in his debut for the new barn in an off-the-turf race here July 6.