03/14/2007 12:00AM

Long-absent Indian Vale returns


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Indian Vale launches her comeback Friday in the $65,000 Lucky Lucky Lucky Stakes for fillies and mares at Aqueduct.

The mile-and-70-yard Lucky Lucky Lucky attracted a field of six and is restricted to nonwinners of a stakes in 2007.

Indian Vale looms a short price in her first start since the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap last May at Belmont Park. The now 5-year-old Indian Vale came out of the Shuvee with a right front ankle injury that abruptly ended a season full of promise.

Indian Vale had a banner 3-year-old campaign in 2005, winning 5 of 6 races. She closed out the season with handicap victories in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm at Aqueduct and the Grade 2 Falls City at Churchill Downs.

With that strong finish, Indian Vale was second - albeit a distant runner-up - to Smuggler in the divisional balloting for the Eclipse Award.

Expectations were sky high as Indian Vale made her 2006 debut in the Shuvee as the 4-5 favorite. Those hopes came crashing back to earth as she stumbled at the start, finished a distant 16 lengths behind Take D' Tour and headed to the sidelines.

"She didn't come out of the Shuvee well," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She had a little right front ankle issue that didn't require surgery. It just needed some time. Basically, she injured it in the Shuvee."

Indian Vale resumed training on Dec. 1, joining the Pletcher string at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida.

She came north earlier this month and turned in a bullet work in her lone drill at Belmont Park: five furlongs in 1:00.09 last Sunday.

"She's trained well," Pletcher said. "We were pleased with her training down in Florida and shipped her up for final breeze. She's a mature older mare with plenty of conditioning. She needed a good solid work."

Pletcher started shopping for a comeback spot and settled on this race.

"We felt that two turns was better for her," Pletcher said. "We were having trouble finding something in Florida. We were looking for an option and after thumbing through a few condition books, we felt this was the best."

Among the challengers, Daytime Promise is winless in four starts at Aqueduct this season but has hit the board every time out with a third in the Lady on the Run Stakes and a second in the Rare Treat Handicap.

Completing the field are Samsincharge, Ring True, Lila Paige, and Victory Pool.