03/16/2006 12:00AM

Pool Land gets test in Jones


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The queen of the local filly and mare sprint division in south Florida this winter, Smokey Glacken, is safely back in New York, which leaves Saturday's $200,000 Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream Park up for grabs. As a result, the Grade 2 race at seven furlongs has drawn a field of 11 older fillies and mares, led by Grade 1 winners In the Gold and Splendid Blended, along with the unbeaten and still untested .

In the Gold has not raced since finishing a distant fifth behind Pleasant Home in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. In her previous start, In the Gold, a daughter of Golden Missile, rallied to a 2 1/4-length decision going 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 1 Gazelle. Trained by Nick Zito, he also won the Grade 2 Beaumont and finished third in the Grade 1 Test during a 3-year-old campaign that saw her earn in excess of $600,000 for her owner, Live Oak Plantation.

"I was hoping to get a one-mile allowance race first and then run her next week in the Rampart, but the Shirley Jones is the next-best option," said Zito. "She's been training for a long time, and she's worked well enough. She doesn't have to win the first time back, but obviously we'd like to win, and I think she's ready for it."

Zito said his main goal during the first half of the year is the Grade 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap on May 5.

If does indeed need the race, the horse to beat may be trainer Todd Pletcher's undefeated Pool Land, who has won her first three career starts by an average of six lengths. She will turn back in distance off an easy seven-length win in Aqueduct's one-mile Summer Colony Stakes on Jan. 22.

"Everything she's done has been impressive so far, but this is a different level of competition she'll be meeting," said Pletcher, who will be in Tampa on Saturday to saddle Bluegrass Cat in the Tampa Bay Derby. "But I think it's a good angle to back a horse up from a mile to seven furlongs, and with Smokey Glacken passing the Shirley Jones, it looks to be a pretty wide-open race."

, a two-time Grade 1 winner, should improve off her 2006 debut, when she made a midrace run at the lead before fading to finish sixth behind Smokey Glacken in the Hurricane Bertie Stakes on Feb. 18. The start was the first for Splendid Blended since she captured the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 3.

The remainder of the field includes Injustice, Beautiful Bets, Malibu Mint, Givememore, So Much More, Johns Place, Toll Taker, and Menifeeque.