05/16/2008 12:00AM

Factual Contender, Rewrite renew rivalry


ELMONT, N.Y. - Uneasy lies the crown. After being named last year's champion New York-bred turf female on Monday, Factual Contender has had little time to rest on her laurels. The reigning queen posted her richest victory of 2007 in the $100,000-added Mount Vernon Handicap and defends her title Sunday in the 30th running.

Run at 1 1/8 miles the past 11 years, the Mount Vernon reverts back to its original distance of 1 1/16 miles and is scheduled for the Widener turf.

Factual Contender won 5 of 27 dirt races to begin her career. Phase two commenced in her final 2006 start at age 5, when she was tried on turf and smashed open optional claimers at nearly 26-1 while eligible to be claimed for $40,000 at Calder; no one took her, and she has since banked an additional $273,702 under the guidance of Barclay Tagg.

Factual Contender was odds-on when she wired last year's Mount Vernon, but despite a sharp comeback in the recent Grade 3 Beaugay against multiple graded stakes winner Criminologist, she will be a higher price this year.

That's due to the presence of her nemesis, Rewrite, who was a tough-trip second to Factual Contender in an overnight stakes last September, before turning the tables to win the Ticonderoga - at $150,000 the division's richest race.

Rewrite is a consistent 5-year-old whose three wins last year came on firm, good, and soft turf. She makes her first start since winning an open overnight stakes at Aqueduct six months ago for trainer Christophe Clement, who said the Amherst Stable homebred underwent "minor surgery to clean up a knee" over the winter. "She looks good, seems happy," he said.

Reflecting the slim margins between them after a total of 17 furlongs last fall, Factual Contender totes 122 pounds to 121 for Rewrite.

"We'll take her on again and see what happens," Clement said.

Latitude Forty, who beat Factual Contender in last year's Yaddo at 23-1 and came out on the short end of a three-way photo in the Ticonderoga at 9-1, looms the most logical threat in her first start of the year for John Hertler.

Also entered were the Akindale Farm entry of Them There Eyes and My Dinah, Jesse's Justice, Nedjma, Higher Incentive, and probable pacesetter Tamberino.