04/21/2006 12:00AM

J'ray finally confronts Aunt Henny


LEXINGTON, Ky. - J'ray was supposed to put her perfect grass record on the line last month in the Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park. But a travel snafu caused her to be a minute or two late for her Lasix shot, and a whole bunch of careful preparation went down the tubes.

Rest assured that J'ray will be in her stall at the appointed hour Sunday at Keeneland, where she will run later that afternoon in the $100,000 Appalachian Stakes. Because she was inside the four-hour limit prescribed by Florida statutes before the March 19 Herecomesthebride, she was scratched out of what could have been an exciting clash with Aunt Henny, who proceeded to win the race by a half-length as the favorite.

Five weeks later, J'ray and Aunt Henny finally will get to hook up for the first time in the Appalachian, a one-mile turf race that goes as the eighth of nine Sunday races. Nine 3-year-old fillies, including a Patrick Biancone stable entry, have been entered.

, a New York-bred filly bred and owned by Lawrence Goichman, finished sixth in her career debut last summer, a Belmont Park dirt sprint. But since then, the filly has reeled off four straight wins, all on turf, including the Jessamine County Stakes last fall at Keeneland.

"Obviously she's done a lot better since we put her on the turf," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of J'ray. "She's already won at Keeneland, so that's good. She's training very well, and we expect her to run well Sunday."

Rafael Bejarano has been named to replace the injured John Velazquez on J'ray, who will start from post 3. , a Hennessy filly trained by Michael Matz, will start just to her inside in post 2, ridden by Javier Castellano, who has ridden the filly in her last three starts, a streak that just so happens to coincide with her being switched to turf. Like J'ray, Aunt Henny, owned by Erdenheim Farm, has truly blossomed on the grass, having lost her first four races, all on dirt, before winning 2 of her last 3.

Both halves of the Biancone entry are French imports making their North American debuts, and both sport very intriguing looks. Stardore has never been worse than second in six starts, while Lady of Venice has two wins and a second in three starts.

The rest of the Appalachian field is May Night, Dyna's Destiny, Saoirse Cat, , and C K Given.