07/19/2006 11:00PM

Oaks distance a plus for Pine Island

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The ability to get 1 1/4 miles is the major hurdle facing most of the 3-year-old fillies entered in Saturday's $300,000 , the featured event on Belmont Park's closing day card. The lone exception may be Pine Island.

Pine Island was doing her best running at the end of the Grade 1 Mother Goose, a 1 1/8-mile race in which she finished second to Bushfire, the division leader with three Grade 1 victories.

"I don't think [distance] is an issue with her," said trainer Shug McGaughey, who won the Oaks last year with Smuggler. "She's bred to go that far. She was doing all her running at the end the other day.

I'd be disappointed if that was a problem."

Though she won her debut on the grass and then won her second start in an off-the-turf allowance race, McGaughey said he had an inkling Pine Island could be competitive in the Mother Goose. Bushfire, who stalked Teammate that day, took command of the race at the quarter pole.

"I was kind of hoping Bushfire might bounce off her Acorn," McGaughey said. "I thought she was the standout in there if she didn't. I'm not too sure had we not gotten away a little better and somebody carried her along a little bit further we couldn't have been more competitive with her."

Pine Island, who will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post 7, should get a contested pace in front of her with Sugar Shake and Teammate in the field.

Baghdaria, Unbridled Belle, Lemons Forever, and Wonder Lady Anne L are all in with a chance. Baghdaria won the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 99.

Trainer Tom Amoss said the Oaks was Baghdaria's "best race by far."

"This is a much different field from top to bottom at a distance that we don't have an answer to," he said.

Amoss said Baghdaria is training well, but he admits running back in three weeks is "a worry."

Unbridled Belle has won two consecutive two-turn races at Delaware Park for Todd Pletcher. Unbridled Belle is a large filly who Pletcher feels "would handle the bigger turns here very well."

Trainer Dallas Stewart said Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever may have needed the race when she was fourth in the Mother Goose. Wonder Lady Anne L, finished second in the Susan's Girl at Delaware in her most recent start.

Vague, 2 for 2 on dirt, ships in from Europe. Miss Shop is a stakes winner on turf and dirt.