05/15/2007 12:00AM

Jade Queen returns


ELMONT, N.Y. - Jade Queen, who in six turf starts last year went from being a maiden to Grade 1-placed, makes her first start as a 4-year-old in Thursday's $65,000 Steal a Kiss Stakes at Belmont Park.

The Steal a Kiss, restricted to nonwinners of a graded turf stakes in 2006-07, is scheduled to be run at 1o1/16 miles on the Widener turf course, and drew 10 fillies and mares meant for grass, along with three for the main track only.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Jade Queen drew toward the outside in post 9, just outside of her uncoupled stablemate Roshani, who is seeking her third straight victory.

Despite outstanding bloodlines and connections, Jade Queen received surprisingly little support from bettors last summer, when she won back-to-back allowance races at 5-1 and 9-1. She then made two starts at Belmont's fall meet, finishing third in the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup at 6-1, and third again in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl against older, in which she set the pace to deep stretch before falling a half-length short at 17-1.

Though Jade Queen was a maiden winner at one mile, all five of her subsequent starts were at 1 1/8 miles or longer, so she could find the distance Thursday a trifle shorter than she prefers.

The up-and-coming Roshani showed promise in two maiden sprints at Belmont last spring, and returned from an extended layoff to post victories in a maiden turf race at Gulfstream in March, and an off-the-turf allowance on Polytrack at Keeneland.

Stormy Kiss, who prompted the pace and finished a close second in the Beaugay Handicap first time on grass, breaks from post 5 and may be able to dictate the tempo, given that Samsincharge, the only other entrant with early speed, drew the outside post.

Meribel and Fantastic Shirl are dangerous closers who have kept good company.

Meribel won a restricted stakes at Saratoga last year, and in the fall won the off-the-turf Valley View at Keeneland. She returned from a layoff to finish a close fourth at Calder in the Hollywood Wildcat.

Fantastic Shirl faced a total of 17 rivals in two turf races at Gulfstream during the winter, and beat them all with the exception of Cassydora, who is 3 for 3 this year, including a win in the Grade 3 Hillsborough with a 106 Beyer.

* Brooke's Valentine, a Pletcher-trained filly by Fusaichi Pegasus, takes on males in the first juvenile dash of the New York season, a five-furlong maiden race that goes as race 2.