02/22/2009 12:00AM

Long distance big question for favorites

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sunday's $100,000 The Very One Stakes will be decided at 1 3/8 miles on the turf. That's a key point, because the majority of the 14-horse field, including several of the top contenders, have yet to prove themselves capable of staying that kind of distance.

The list of leading contenders in the Grade 3 The Very One includes Grade 1 winner Backseat Rhythm, the Grade 1-placed Callwood Dancer, and recent graded stakes winner Lady Carlock. None of them has won beyond 1 1/4 miles or captured a stakes longer than 1 1/8 miles.

Backseat Rhythm will be making her first start since finishing second in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at nine furlongs at Keeneland on Oct. 11. Backseat Rhythm won Belmont's Grade 1 Garden City and Saratoga's Grade 2 Lack Placid at the same distance in her previous two starts.

"We have to come off the bench somewhere, and going a mile and three-eighths, fitness is always an issue," said trainer Pat Reynolds. "She's a very good filly - she didn't win a Grade 1 by accident - and our main goal is to get her in top shape and then look around for some Grade 1's later in the year."

Callwood Dancer finished fifth as the 9-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Suwannee River earlier this month. A Canadian-based mare, Callwood Dancer was second in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor going 1 1/4 miles at Woodbine in October.

Lady Carlock rallied from last off a slow pace to upset the Suwannee River and also won a second-level allowance race at 1 3/16 miles last spring.

The most accomplished stayers in the field are Criticism, Dress Rehearsal, and Lamentation.

Criticism has not started since winning the 12-furlong Grade 3 Long Island Handicap on Nov. 1. She was also a listed winner and Group 3-placed in France at 3 prior to coming to the U.S. to trainer Tom Albertrani in 2008.

Dress Rehearsal was a listed winner going 1 7/16 miles in Ireland but turned back to 1 1/8 miles to capture her U.S. debut for trainer Bill Mott last month at Tampa Bay Downs.

Lamentation captured a first-level allowance race at 1 1/2 miles here in January after finishing third making her U.S. bow at the same distance in the Grade 2 La Prevoyante at Calder.