04/10/2008 12:00AM

Good setup for Zaftig - who steps way up


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - To make the successful jump from maiden company to the graded stakes ranks, one has to be lucky and good. Zaftig showed in her last race that she is good. Moreover, she may have lucked into the right scenario to win Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct.

Zaftig took advantage of a hotly contested pace when she won a seven-furlong maiden race by 8 3/4 lengths on Feb. 23 at Gulfstream Park. Four of Zaftig's five rivals in the Comely appear to want to be forwardly placed early.

The four speed horses - Elusive Lady, Sherine, Love Co, and Lady Chace - drew the inside four post positions. Zaftig will break from post 5 - with Ready for Fortune, another closer, in post 6.

Zaftig's maiden win was in sharp contrast to her debut over the main track last Oct. 28. In that race, she acted up in the gate and never really got involved in finishing fifth, beaten 4o3/4 lengths.

"For some reason she was terrible in the gate that day and she ran terrible," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who noted that Zaftig had not shown any previous bad gate behavior.

In her victory, Zaftig had no gate issues. She broke well and settled into fifth position down the backside, then advanced four wide around the turn and into the stretch. At the three-sixteenths pole, Cornelio Velasquez gave Zaftig a crack of his right-handed whip and she instantly ran away from the field. She covered seven furlongs in 1:23.12 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 85.

Jerkens has been pleased with Zaftig's training since the last race, but knows this is a much tougher spot.

"Better horses going a further distance, that's always tough to do," Jerkens said. "Let's hope she's up to it."

Lady Chace failed to make the jump from the maiden ranks to graded stakes when she finished sixth in last year's Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga. Trainer Todd Pletcher said Lady Chace came out of that race "a bit jammed up." Her subsequent training was not up to par, Pletcher said, and the decision was made to put her away for the rest of the year.

Lady Chace, a daughter of Tiznow, returned in an allowance race on March 14 in which she attended a hot pace en route to a 6 1/2-length score. Though she ran close to a 44.62-second half-mile, Pletcher is confident she can rate if need be.

"Johnny [Velazquez] wasn't asking her to do anything; she placed herself prominently," Pletcher said. "She's not a rank filly."

Elusive Lady won the Grade 3 Tempted going a mile over the main track last fall. She enters this race off a second in the Florida Oaks for trainer John Kimmel.

Ready for Fortune has broken poorly in her last two starts.