01/22/2009 1:00AM

Helsinki tries again in allowance


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Helsinki had legitimate excuses for not winning either of his two starts since returning from a year layoff. He emerged from his first race back with a lung infection. In his second start, he simply ran into a better horse in Barrier Reef.

Friday, Helsinki hopes to have no excuses as he again tries to break through the second-level allowance condition in the feature race at Aqueduct. A field of eight was entered for the mile and 70-yard race.

As a 3-year-old, Helsinki was no match for the likes of Street Sense and Any Given Saturday, among the best of a very strong division. Still, he was good enough to run third in the Travers and Brooklyn. Helsinki missed virtually his entire 4-year-old season last year after having surgery to remove an ankle chip.

Helsinki returned to the races last Nov. 20 and finished fifth behind the stakes winner Etched. A post-race endoscopic examination revealed mucus in Helsinki's lungs, according to Tonja Terranova, assistant to her husband, John.

Helsinki ran in a second-level allowance race Jan. 2 and closed well to be second to Barrier Reef, who won last Saturday's Evening Attire Stakes. Helsinki finished nearly three lengths clear of the rest of the field.

"We were really happy with his last race," Tonja Terranova said. "He came out of it good, and it looks like there is a lot of speed to set up for him."

Prince of Iron, who set the pace in the Jan. 2 race, figures to battle on Friday with Take the Bluff, who breaks from the outside post.

The horse for Helsinki's connections to fear may be Quip. Unable to get a race to fill for Quip at Gulfstream Park, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin shipped the 5-year-old son of Pure Prize back to New York. Quip's last victory came over the inner track last March when he earned a lifetime-best Beyer Speed Figure of 92.

"Hopefully, he'll be a horse for the course," said Art Magnuson, McLaughlnin's New York assistant. "He's only been here about a week, but he looks good, he's got that Florida coat on him."

Run With the Lark, a 7-year-old gelding who is offered for the optional claiming tag of $50,000, beat a field similar to this on Dec. 13 at odds of 19-1. Numaany, third to Run With the Lark in that Dec. 13 race, and Fuhrever Dancing, who finished right behind Helsinki on Jan. 2, are other contenders in this field.