11/27/2008 1:00AM

Jerkens back in the saddle


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It would be hard to think of a more heartwarming holiday tale than Allen Jerkens winning Friday's $150,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct. Jerkens will take two shots at doing just that when he runs Any Limit and So Glitzy in the one-mile stakes for fillies and mares.

Thirty-eight days after undergoing open-heart surgery and two weeks after being released from a rehabilitation center, the

79-year-old Jerkens was back atop his stable pony Circus on a brisk Wednesday morning at Belmont Park. Initially, it was believed Jerkens would have to stay off his pony for a few more weeks, but Jerkens was unwilling to wait. His surgeon told him he didn't have to.

"He said there's no reason not to get on," Jerkens said. "They're all different. The actual surgeon - you don't see them very much - the only time I saw him was yesterday. The other guy, [he] gives you a whole bunch of rules not to do this, not to do that. I don't see what the difference is in driving or sitting still somewhere else. You got to get going - it's been six weeks."

Any Limit gives Jerkens his best shot at a fourth Top Flight victory. A four-time graded stakes winner, Any Limit has been plagued by a hind-leg injury this year. After winning the First Flight at Belmont and the Honorable Miss at Saratoga, Any Limit was away from the races for two months before trying the synthetic surface at Keeneland in the Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland. She finished sixth.

Jerkens is hoping that Any Limit just didn't like the surface. Since then, Any Limit has trained "as good as you could hope," Jerkens said. Any Limit won her only start at a mile, albeit in a three-horse field.

So Glitzy, a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Silver Wagon, is only 3 for 17, but two of her three wins have come in one-turn mile races, the conditions of the Top Flight. She is coming off a distant third-place finish to Altesse in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm.

Altesse will be one of the top contenders in the Top Flight. Fifth in this race last year, Altesse is in career-best form just as her career is ending. Trainer Shug McGaughey stopped on her in May because "she had something wrong with her that nobody could quite figure out." Since returning, Altesse has won an overnight stakes and the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm. This will be her final start.

Another McGaughey runner, Boca Grande, will also be making her final start in the Top Flight. The 4-year-old Boca Grande won graded stakes over this track at 2 and 3 and is coming off an 8 1/4-length defeat to a loose-on-the-lead Thunders Dove in the Vivano Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 19.

"She likes Aqueduct - she's doing really, really well," said McGaughey, who also is seeking his fourth Top Flight victory. "She will run well again. I hate running the two against each other, because one of them can't win."

Leah's Secret, winner of the Chilukki Stakes at Churchill on Nov. 2, is a major threat from just off the pace. Slewfoundmoney, a winner of two straight at Calder, ships in for the always-dangerous Marty Wolfson. Rite Moment, Weathered, and Shining Image complete the nine-horse field.