03/18/2009 12:00AM

Hello Poochi Pooh tuning up for stakes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - When John Alecci purchased Hello Poochi Pooh privately late last fall, he thought he was buying a horse that could win an allowance race or two on the Maryland circuit.

It appears he has gotten more than he bargained for. In three starts for Alecci, Hello Poochi Pooh has won an allowance race and the Maryland Racing Media Handicap. With an eye toward a stakes opportunity in April, Alecci is sending Hello Poochi Pooh to New York for Friday's featured third-level allowance at one mile over the inner track.

Hello Poochi Pooh will face just four rivals in the $50,000 allowance.

Though Hello Poochi Pooh has won his two races for Alecci in front-running fashion, the owner/trainer says that's borne more out of circumstance than the horse's need for the lead.

"She's a versatile horse," Alecci said by phone from Maryland on Wednesday. "The last race she ran, there was no speed in the race at all, she found herself alone out there because there was nobody else that wanted to be out there."

Alecci said the same set of circumstances existed in a seven-furlong allowance race on Jan. 16 that Hello Poochi Pooh won by 9 1/2 lengths going seven furlongs. In a Dec. 26 race, Hello Poochi Pooh rallied from 9 1/2 lengths back only to lose by a head.

Alecci said he's hoping to use this race as a springboard to either the $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes going seven-eighths at Charles Town or the Grade 3, $200,000 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne. Both races are on April 18.

Hello Poochi Pooh breaks from the rail under high weight of 123 pounds. She may be forced to come from off the pace with the presence of Spritely in the field. Spritely, who breaks from post 5, won the Honey Bee Handicap at the Meadowlands in front-running fashion on Nov. 8. After running second in the Restored Hope Stakes on Jan. 2, Spritely finished third, beaten 14 1/4 lengths, in the Affectionately Stakes on Jan. 18.

"That's more a head-scratcher than anything," said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "This filly's training very well at the moment.''

Spritely shows four breezes since the Affectionately, two of which were bullet drills. C.C. Lopez rides.

Sherine, who won the Grade 2 Comely last April, has finished sixth in her last three starts, but gets a switch to leading rider Ramon Dominguez.

Awesome Chic and Powergirl complete the field.