03/12/2008 11:00PM

Now It Begins has setup for payback


The deep closer For Kisses outfought pure front-runner Now It Begins by a neck when they met three months ago in the Squan Song. Which one will have the advantage when they are rematched at the same seven-furlong distance Saturday in the $60,000 Conniver Stakes at Laurel Park?

Given the forecast for a 60 percent chance of rain for central Maryland, Now It Begins's 2-for-3 record over wet tracks, and her status as the possible lone speed in a field of nine Maryland-bred fillies and mares, she appears to have a great deal in her favor.

Unlike the Squan Song, in which she had to spot her older rival two pounds, Now It Begins and For Kisses will both carry 120 pounds on Saturday.

The last time she raced in the mud, the 4-year-old Now It Begins romped by more than five lengths. She is winless in three subsequent starts, but will be dropping into statebred company for only the second time in quest of her first stakes victory.

The 5-year-old For Kisses, part of an uncoupled entry with stablemate Take a Check for trainer Richard Small, is also taking a distinct class drop after finishing third in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap a month ago. All seven of her lifetime wins have come at Laurel, but For Kisses is 0 for 2 over wet surfaces.

In addition to helping Now It Begins, a muddy or sloppy track would also benefit La Chica Rica and All Giving.

La Chica Rica, the 124-pound highweight, earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 92 the last time she raced in the mud, in the New Year's Eve at Mountaineer Race Track. She has been first or second in 6 of 8 starts over off tracks.

All Giving, beaten 14 lengths by For Kisses as the seventh-place finisher in the Barbara Fritchie, crushed high-priced optional claimers, earning a career-top Beyer Figure of 92, when she raced over a sloppy track in her prior start on Feb. 1, improving her record on wet tracks to 3 for 3. That race was also one of two times she has finished ahead of La Chica Rica this year.

Ursula's Passion, fourth in the Squan Song, comes off a win in her best race since she was claimed by trainer Scott Lake last October. Her winning Beyer of 89 exceeded her previous best race of her current form cycle by 16 points, and she may be susceptible to a bounce on Saturday.