08/16/2007 12:00AM

J'ray faces weighty obstacle vs. statebreds


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - J'ray has been so good in open company there has been little need for trainer Todd Pletcher to run her against New York-breds. But Saturday's $100,000 Yaddo Handicap on turf falls nicely into her schedule, and J'ray figures to be a strong favorite against 10 fellow New York-bred fillies and mares.

Since winning a maiden turf race against New York-breds here two years ago, J'ray has competed in 11 open-company stakes, winning five and coming within two heads, a neck, and a nose of winning four others. Because of that success J'ray has to carry 124 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Yaddo, conceding 2 to 15 pounds to others in the field. Given J'ray's smallish size, Pletcher is concerned about the weight factor.

"She's a very small filly that doesn't carry a lot of weight herself," Pletcher said.

J'ray won two stakes at Fair Grounds before getting beat a nose at in the Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park on July 4

"We didn't feel like she handled the turf at Philadelphia Park very well, she seemed like she was struggling throughout the race," Pletcher said. "In spite of that she tried to win."

Factual Contender figures to provide J'ray her stiffest competition. Since trainer Barclay Tagg put her on the turf, Factual Contender has three wins, a second and a troubled fifth. Two of her victories have come off two-month layoffs and she enters this race off a similar freshening, since winning the Mount Vernon Handicap on June 10.

"She's so much better off two months," said Robin Smullen, the assistant to Tagg. "That's the whole reason we gave her the time. We want her to be at her best to face J'ray."

Despite the fact there is an 11-horse field, Factual Contender looms the controlling speed under Eibar Coa.

Sabellina, who won this race in 2004, will likely be making the final start of her career as she is in foal. Rewrite and Half Heaven, separated by a neck in the Dinner Diamond Stakes here on July 27, are also contenders.