10/14/2005 12:00AM

Flying Circle tough on cutback

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MIAMI - Flying Circle, who has proven at least up to this point in her career to be a better sprinter than router, shortens up to six furlongs and returns to the main track to head a well-matched field of eight 3-year-old fillies in Sunday's $40,000 Lady Sonata Stakes.

Flying Circle is winless in four tries around two turns but has captured 4 of her 5 starts at distances of seven furlongs or less. Her only sprint loss came earlier this summer in the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes. Not that Flying Circle has run that poorly when going a distance of ground: She enters the Lady Sonata off third-place finishes in both the one-mile Ravolia and the 1 1/16-mile Judy's Red Shoes stakes.

Flying Circle is already a two-time stakes winner, having captured Churchill Downs's five-furlong Open Mind Stakes on the turf as well as the six-furlong Snurb Stakes over the main track here early in the meet.

"She's shown to be better going short right now, but with age I believe she'll stretch out again," said David Fawkes, who trains Flying Circle for owner-breeder Walter New. "My main concern is that we drew the 1-hole on Sunday. Fortunately, there appears to be plenty of speed in the field, so she should be able to get good position just off the pace."

Leading rider Eddie Castro again will ride Flying Circle.

The speed in the Lady Sonata figures to be provided by Lady in Pink, Suchatouch, and perhaps Mertie M.

Lady in Pink has been idle since finishing a tiring sixth in the Genes Big Sky Stakes on grass on July 24, but is training well for her return. Both she and Mertie M., who tired badly after contesting a fast pace in the Ravolia, have won five-furlong turf stakes this season.

The best late threat in the Lady Sonata is Midtown Miss, who returns against her own kind after finishing second when taking on older horses for the first time in the 6 1/2-furlong U Can Do It Handicap on Sept. 17. Midtown Miss won the Harmony Lodge Stakes earlier in the meet and finished well in front of Flying Circle when third in the Azalea.

Midtown Miss will be ridden by Manoel Cruz, who surpassed jockey Walter Guerra's previous single-season mark of 193 victories with a pair of wins on Thursday's card. Unfortunately for Cruz, his name will not appear in the record books, that distinction belonging to Castro, the meet's leading jockey, who has already ridden more than 200 winners during the current session and sets a record with each succeeding victory.

* The 2005 Calder meet ends Sunday, and the Tropical at Calder meet begins the following day. Post time during the Tropical meet will be moved up from 12:50 to 12:25 p.m. daily.

* Apprentice Jeffrey Sanchez stole a little thunder from Castro and Cruz by winning the first three races on Friday's card.