10/31/2008 11:00PM

J'ray looks daunting off last two

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Based on the results of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, J'ray might have been competitive in that $2 million race had her connections opted to run. Instead, J'ray will have to settle for a consolation prize of sorts in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct.

In her last two starts, both at Woodbine, J'ray defeated Forever Together when winning the Grade 2 Canadian, and finished a half-length behind Sealy Hill when she and J'ray were third and fourth in the E.P. Taylor. Forever Together and Sealy Hill finished one-two in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of J'ray, believes his New York-bred mare was compromised by a slow pace in the E.P. Taylor, a race that Folk Opera won gate to wire.

"I thought she ran her race, she closed, just couldn't quite do it," Pletcher said. "When you look at who she ran against in the Canadian and how well some of those horses did in the Breeders' Cup, it looked like a pretty solid effort."

This will be J'ray's first attempt at 1 1/2 miles, but based on the way she ran 1 3/8 miles at Calder last April - finishing second to the multiple Grade 1 winner Mauralakana - Pletcher doesn't believe the distance will be an issue.

Trainer James Bond had Hostess under consideration for the the Breeders' Cup until she ran a dull seventh in the E.P. Taylor. Bond believes the 1 1/2 miles of the Long Island is better for Hostess than was the 1 1/4 miles of the Breeders' Cup. Like Pletcher, Bond thinks his mare was compromised by the slow fractions in the E.P. Taylor.

"She unfortunately was too far back and got discouraged," Bond said. "She's worked well and trained well in the last 10 days."

Bond believes running over a fresh Aqueduct turf course and getting Rajiv Maragh back aboard Hostess are both positives.

Pace could be an issue again in this marathon as Sunshine for Life, the front-running winner of the 1 1/16-mile Athenia, looms the controlling speed. Though this race is seven-sixteenths longer than the Athenia, trainer Richard Schosberg believes the farther the better for Sunshine for Life.

Trainer Andre Fabre, a two-time Long Island winner, has shipped two fillies here from France. Both Shake the Moon and Astrologie are 3-year-old fillies who are specialists at 1 1/2 miles.

Criticism, second to Sunshine for Life in the Athenia, is another who would seem appreciate the added distance. Marzelline, fourth to Wait a While in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon, is in from California for Ben Cecil.