07/01/2002 11:00PM

Janet set up for elusive win in New York

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ELMONT, N.Y. - After two forgettable trips to New York last summer, the last place one would figure to see Janet is at Belmont Park for Thursday's $250,000 New York Handicap.

But, trainer Darrell Vienna, unhappy with the condition of the Hollywood Park turf course, elected to skip last weekend's Grade 1 Beverly Hills Handicap. In shipping east, Vienna had the option of the New York Handicap or Sunday's Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park, but chose the New York because it is worth $150,000 more and is a furlong farther. Janet is 2 for 2 at the 10-furlong distance of the New York.

The Grade 2 New York also is coming up light, meaning Janet just may finally win a race in New York.

The defection of defending New York Handicap winner England's Legend helped swell the field to eight, but only three are graded winners. Janet, who drew post 7, will be the starting highweight at 119 pounds.

In June 2000, Janet came to Belmont for the Sheepshead Bay Handicap only to have it rained off to the main track. She finished a well-beaten third. After winning the Grade 1 Ramona Handicap at Del Mar, Janet shipped to Saratoga for the Diana, where she caught a wet, chewed-up turf course and finished sixth. Twenty-six days later, she won the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita.

Janet enters the New York off a second-place finish behind Peu a Peu in the Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap at Bay Meadows. That race looks better after Peu a Peu came within a head of Astra in Saturday's Beverly Hills.

Janet won last year's Ramona Handicap off a 49-day layoff and comes into this unraced in 47 days. "She's really fit," Vienna said. "It's hard for me to think about it as being off a layoff. We haven't missed any time."

Vienna would like to see Janet stalk the pace, but the New York is lacking speed. Perhaps French import Five Fishes, in her first start for trainer Niall O'Callaghan, fits the bill.

Trainer Todd Pletcher assured the pace wouldn't be made by Tweedside, who comes off a perfect-trip victory in the Sheepshead Bay when she stalked the pace

"We won't let her get on the lead," Pletcher said, adding that even if the opening quarter is run in 26 seconds, "we'll be tracking somebody."

Volga, a group winner in France, looked good winning an allowance prep for this. Owsley rates an upset chance having had traffic trouble in the Sheepshead Bay before finishing fourth, beaten one-half length.