04/10/2008 12:00AM

Kimmel, filly set for rebound

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - After beginning the year in a 1-for-49 funk, trainer John Kimmel has shown signs of life recently, winning with 3 of his last 9 starters.

Kimmel hopes his good fortune continues Saturday when he runs Elusive Lady in the Grade 2, $150,000 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct. Elusive Lady will be Kimmel's first starter of the year in New York.

Contested as a one-turn mile on the main track, the Comely is run under the same conditions as last October's Grade 3 Tempted Stakes, won by Elusive Lady.

Elusive Lady's 3-year-old campaign mirrors that of Kimmel's: a brutal start followed by significant improvement. In the Grade 3 Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 12, Elusive Lady broke slowly and was forced to steady early. Kimmel said she did not appear to care for the kickback in her face and was basically last all the way around the track.

"Not only did she not like the kickback, she tried to make a left-hand turn out of the chute onto the main track," Kimmel said.

Kimmel said he also lost a little time with Elusive Lady after that race due to a minor illness. Elusive Lady returned to the races March 15 in the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs, where she finished second to Awesome Chic. It was one of 10 seconds Kimmel has this year.

"I thought she ran really well," Kimmel said. "She got a little tired the last part of it. It should set her up for her next race. At least with a one-turn mile, there should be a lot of space to stay out of the kickback."

Elusive Lady will have to deal with the rail again Saturday. Cornelio Velasquez rides.

Meriwether Jessica tries Lizzy Cool

Meriwether Jessica, who finished second to Elusive Lady in the Tempted, bypassed a rematch with that filly and will instead run in Saturday's $65,000 Lizzy Cool Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs.

A New York-bred, Meriwether Jessica won her 3-year-old debut in the fog on Gotham Day, rallying from off the pace to earn a 1 1/2-length victory in a first-level open-company allowance race.

"She really finished well," trainer Linda Rice said. "She was pretty far back. You couldn't see a lot, but I could tell she was about eight lengths out of it. I was pleased with her."

Rice said she would like to stretch Meriwether Jessica out in distance "gradually." She could use this as a stepping-stone to the $100,000 Bouwerie Stakes for statebreds going seven furlongs at Belmont on May 4 or the $75,000 Cupecoy's Joy division of the New York Stallion Stakes at a mile on June 1.

Rice also entered Psycho D J in the Lizzy Cool. Psycho D J comes off a second-place finish to Sumptuous in a first-level allowance race March 29.

Other contenders in the Lizzy Cool include Weathered and Mikeslittlegirl.

Harlington back in training

The regally bred Harlington, whose career has been constantly interrupted by infirmities, has recently joined Tom Albertrani's Belmont Park stable and is nearing yet another return to the races. On Thursday, he worked four furlongs in 49.26 seconds over Belmont Park's main track.

While that was his first breeze at the track, Harlington breezed nine times at owner Eugene Melnyk's Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla. Harlington has not raced since winning an optional claiming race at Belmont last May 27.

"He's been working quite a bit on the farm and we should have him ready at Belmont," said Albertrani, who has taken over the training of Harlington from Todd Pletcher. "He looks good."

Harlington is a 6-year-old son of Unbridled out of the champion mare Serena's Song. He has run only eight times, winning six, including the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in 2006. He finished fourth to Invasor in that year's Pimlico Special, but did not run again for a year. After winning that allowance race last May, he again was sidelined with a foot injury.

Twice in his career, Harlington has been sidelined due to ankle problems.

Vaulcluse out indefinitely

While Albertrani welcomed Harlington to his stable, he has had to say goodbye to his undefeated 3-year-old filly Vaulcluse for a while. Vaulcluse, who has raced three times, suffered an injury training toward a start in last month's Florida Oaks and will be out indefinitely, Albertrani said.

"She'll be back," said Albertrani, who declined to be specific about the injury. "Late fall or maybe early next year. It's a shame, she looked like she was going to be okay."

Vaulcluse, a daughter of A.P. Indy owned by Melnyk, set a Tampa Bay Downs track record winning the Suncoast Stakes on Feb. 16. She covered the mile and 40 yards in 1:39.36.

* Rajiv Maragh suffered a contusion to his right shoulder after his mount, Runaway Rainwater, fell nearing the finish line of Thursday's seventh race. Maragh took off his one remaining mount. After Runaway Rainwater lay on the ground for several minutes, she got up and was able to be walked off the track. She apparently was suffering from exhaustion.