01/03/2007 1:00AM

Jazil back where he started


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jazil is among a select group of horses that have raced over Aqueduct's inner track en route to glory in a Triple Crown race. However, Jazil, last year's Belmont Stakes victor, is believed to be the first classic winner to return to race at New York's winterized racing wonderland.

In 1993, Prairie Bayou won the Count Fleet and Whirlaway stakes over the inner track before taking that year's Preakness. In 2004, Smarty Jones kicked off his 3-year-old campaign winning the Count Fleet on his way to glory in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Due to a confluence of circumstances, Jazil will run Friday at Aqueduct in a second-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track. The start comes 13 months after Jazil earned his maiden victory over this oval and seven months after he won the Belmont Stakes.

Jazil has been away from the races since the Belmont due to bruising of a hind cannon bone, detected in July. He returned to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's barn in September and trained in New York before shipping to south Florida for the winter.

Jazil returned to McLaughlin's Belmont Park barn on Christmas Eve - along with his stablemate and probable Horse of the Year Invasor - after an outbreak of equine herpesvirus was detected in several parts of Florida. McLaughlin intends to send one of the two horses overseas for the Dubai World Cup on March 31 and feared that more herpes cases could lead to a statewide shipping ban in Florida.

Jazil has been on a regular work schedule since Oct. 22, and his connections don't believe fitness will be an issue for the 4-year-old son of Seeking the Gold. The speed-favoring nature of the inner track, however, may work against Jazil, as could the seemingly lack of early pace in the race.

"We want to finish one-two-three," McLaughlin said. "If the track is speed biased and we finish second we will all understand that. Hopefully, he's running late and moves forward from the race."

If all goes well, McLaughlin will likely point Jazil to the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 3 and run Invasor in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 3. If Invasor makes it to the World Cup, Jazil will likely remain in the U.S.

On Friday, Fernando Jara will ride Jazil from the outside post in what was drawn as an eight-horse field.

John Parisella, the trainer of Chief Speed, said he was "shocked" to pick up the overnight and see Jazil's name among his opponents. He also isn't thrilled about having to give the Belmont winner five pounds with a horse who debuted for a $16,000 claiming price. Chief Speed is 3 for 4 over the inner track.

"I called [racing secretary P.J. Campo] and said I don't mind running, but geez, I got to give him five pounds?" Parisella said. "The only thing I could pray for is rain. He is five to 10 lengths better in the slop. That's the shot I got, nature."