09/09/2005 12:00AM

Fillies seek to regain lost luster in Ruffian

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Society Selection, finishing second in the Ogden Phipps, has one win in four starts this year.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Coming off extremely successful 3-year-old campaigns in which they both won multiple Grade 1 races, Society Selection and Stellar Jayne had high expectations placed on them as they entered their 4-year-old seasons.

For various reasons, neither filly has yet to realize her promise. But there is still time. With three Grade 1 races in the next seven weeks, culminating in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 29, both Society Selection and Stellar Jayne have an opportunity to finish strong.

The first of those opportunities comes Sunday in the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap, where Society Selection and Stellar Jayne meet for the first time since last October's Breeders' Cup Distaff. A field of six was entered for the Ruffian, which highlights a 10-race card that includes the Grade 2 Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap and the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap.

has shown an affinity for Belmont Park, winning 3 of 4 starts here, including the Mother Goose and Gazelle last year, and running second behind Ashado in the Coaching Club American Oaks. Following her third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Stellar Jayne was put through the sales ring at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, where Godolphin Racing Inc. purchased her for $3.6 million from Spendthrift Farm.

After spending the winter in Dubai, Stellar Jayne returned to New York in the spring. She made it back to the races in July, winning the Misty Gallore Stakes here at 7 1/2 furlongs July 2, which was supposed to have served as a prep for the Go for Wand. But Stellar Jayne came out of a late July work with a hind-end problem, forcing her to miss that race. She has rebounded nicely and shows two bullet workouts coming into this.

"Her last couple of works were good," said trainer Richard Mettee, who oversees Godolphin's New York string. "I expect her to run a good race."

Stellar Jayne, the 119-pound highweight, figures to be forwardly placed under Jerry Bailey from post 5.

, who won the Test and Alabama last year, has undergone two operations this year. Following a last-place finish in the Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream in February, Society Selection underwent surgery to her left hind leg to ward off an infection. Following a fourth-place finish in the Go for Wand in July, Society Selection underwent throat surgery.

In between those two races, Society Selection won the Grade 2 Shuvee and finished second in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, both at Belmont. Society Selection does her best running when closing behind a swift pace. With Stellar Jayne and Capeside Lady in the field, Society Selection may get her desired pace scenario.

"We all know she likes to come from behind, but sometimes it doesn't happen," trainer Allen Jerkens said. "One day she went to the front and finished second; she might have got beat coming from behind that day, too."

Javier Castellano rides Society Selection from post 2.

Capeside Lady and Bending Strings are on fact-finding missions in the Ruffian. The connections of both horses are trying to see how they handle a one-turn route in hopes of running in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Capeside Lady has won 7 of 14 career starts but has done her best work around two turns at Monmouth Park. Bending Strings has proven to be a come-from-behind sprinter.

, a New York-bred, won two stakes at Monmouth last summer and two stakes at Monmouth this summer. At age 2, she won the Maid of the Mist for New York-bred fillies by a neck going a one-turn mile.

"Her races have been stronger this year than they were last year," Pletcher said. "She's got a high cruising speed. She doesn't have to be on the lead, but she's going to be prominent early on and hopefully carries her speed as well at a mile and a sixteenth around one turn as she can two."

Halory Leigh, a multiple Grade 2 winner at Churchill Downs last fall, and Taygete, a winner of allowance races in her last two, complete the field.

The field

Ruffian Handicap
Purse: $300,000; 1 1/16 miles; Grade 1

1Capeside LadyJ. Velazquez1165-2
2Society SelectionJ. Castellano1189-5
3Bending StringsG. Stevens1148-1
4Halory LeighC. Perret11610-1
5Stellar JayneJ. Bailey1192-1
6TaygeteE. Prado11310-1

* Odds by Art Gropper