11/12/2003 12:00AM

Hot stuff: Lovely Fiona vs. Dutrow duo


OZONE PARK, N.Y.- The streaking Lovely Fiona takes on a pair of runners from the red-hot Richard Dutrow Jr. barn in Friday's featured $51,000 third-level allowance race at Aqueduct.

Lovely Fiona, a New Jersey-bred daughter of Not for Love, has won four consecutive races, including the restricted Girl Powder Stakes at The Meadowlands on Oct. 18. Overall, she has won 5 of 7 starts and is particularly fond of wet footing, and would appreciate any leftover moisture from Wednesday's rains.

"She's a superior mud runner," trainer Faustino Ramos said, "but she'll run over broken glass. This is a nice filly."

A speedy sort in her first few races, Lovely Fiona has lately been effective from a stalking position, a point she hammered home to Ramos in the Girl Powder.

"The last time, at the Meadowlands, I thought she was going to get beat," Ramos said. "She went wide - that's an inside-speed-favoring track - and she came on to win. Of all the races she has run, that was her best one."

Ramos credits jockey Chuck Lopez with a lot of Lovely Fiona's success. However, Lopez is on vacation and will not ride her on Friday. Javier Castellano, who has had good luck with Ramos, takes the call.

Lovely Fiona will need to put forth another top effort against the Dutrow-trained duo of Elegant Mercedes and Fit Performer. Dutrow has done little wrong at this meet, winning with 9 of his first 26 starters.

Elegant Mercedes has won 6 of her last 7 starts, dating back to March 22 when she was running for a claiming tag of $20,000. Her only loss in that span came in the slop at Belmont, where she finished third for a $45,000 tag. Dutrow claimed her out of that June 1 race, freshened her up, and has won three in a row with her, including two allowance races.

Elegant Mercedes is 4 for 4 at Aqueduct, including a second-level allowance win going a mile when she broke from the outside post in a seven-horse field. Elegant Mercedes again has the outside post in a seven-horse field in this 6 1/2-furlong race. Edgar Prado rides.

Dutrow also entered Fit Performer, who earned a gaudy 95 Beyer Speed Figure when second, beaten a neck, in an optional claiming race at the Meadowlands on Nov. 1. Julian Pimentel rides from post 4.

Its Spooky and Vibs - both coming off second-level allowance victories - look like they'll supply ample pace.