10/11/2004 11:00PM

Long absence no obstacle for Big Sid's Party


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Richard Dutrow will give Big Sid's Party an early start on what he hopes will be a productive winter campaign when the horse returns from a five-month layoff in Thursday's feature at Belmont Park.

A field of seven was entered for the $60,000 classified allowance race run at 1 1/16 miles. Big Sid's Party was one of three horses entered for the optional claiming tag of $100,000. Dutrow also entered Classic Endeavor, but plans to scratch him.

Dutrow claimed for $45,000 on May 31, 2003. He ran Big Sid's Party twice that summer before giving him a little freshening. Big Sid's Party returned from a two-month layoff to win a $65,000 claiming race by 13 lengths over a sloppy Belmont Park track. Rain is in the forecast for Thursday.

That race began a string of eight starts in which Big Sid's Party finished no worse than third. Dutrow gave Big Sid's Party another freshening after he finished third at Belmont in May.

"I stopped on him because I wanted to, not because I had to," said Dutrow, who enters the final nine days of this meet tied for first with Todd Pletcher in the trainers' standings.

Pletcher sends out , who had been unbeaten at Belmont Park before finishing fifth as the 7-5 favorite in a spot similar to this on Sept. 23. Colita came back with a strong five-furlong work in 59.20 seconds last week in preparation for this. Colita is 3 for 6 over wet surfaces.

Stakes winners Free of Love and Snake Mountain are also contenders. ended an 18-race losing streak on July 22 when he won the restricted Seeking the Gold Stakes over this track. He began a new skid, however, with two disappointing performances at Saratoga.

appears to be racing back into shape after a lengthy layoff precipitated by injury. Snake Mountain finished fourth in a race like this on closing day at Saratoga before finishing third here on Sept. 23 in an improved effort.

Loving, who won two races in five days last month for Dutrow, makes his first start since being claimed by Dominick Schettino. Loving, who has won three stakes since last December, must carry high weight of 124 pounds, conceding 2 to 6 pounds to others in the field. Loving has won the last two times he has gone from the turf to the dirt, something he does in here.

The Chilean-bred Tamburello would need an improved effort to upset these.