09/08/2005 11:00PM

Private Gift looks to leave others behind


All Neil Howard asks Sunday is a fair shot for Private Gift in the $60,000 Without Feathers Stakes at Monmouth Park, which is more than she got in the Pennsylvania Oaks on Sept. 5 at Philadelphia Park.

A feeling of dread filled Howard when the field broke from the gate in the Pennsylvania Oaks without Private Gift.

"My first reaction was the gut reaction of any trainer," Howard said. "I thought the filly got hurt, that something bad had happened."

Dread quickly gave way to relief, followed quickly by frustration, when Howard realized Private Gift was still standing behind the starting gate. The field had been released before Private Gift loaded.

The snafu denied a shot at her first stakes victory.

Howard fortunately had a fallback position: the Without Feathers for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and 70 yards. Private Gift faces five rivals, and Howard said he is eager to bury the Pennsylvania Oaks experience in the past.

"We're not dwelling on it," he said. "We got her back here to Belmont Park, and Thursday she breezed good. We're going to try it again."

Private Gift's breeze Thursday was a four-furlong drill in 48.42 seconds. Howard said he is confident that Private Gift is sitting on a quality effort. She was second in a front-running allowance effort at Saratoga last time out.

"That's one of the reasons we were so disappointed," Howard said. "She ran well at Saratoga, and we had been pointing to that race for a month. Fortunately, she handled the whole experience beautifully."

is one of the top local contenders. She turned the corner for trainer Kelly Breen in the last two starts, winning an allowance race by 11 1/4 lengths before running second in the Grade 3 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks.

Breen entered her in the Pennsylvania Oaks and debated running there. A trickle of mucus two days before the race triggered a scratch.

"We were able to clean her out, and she is doing fabulous now," said Breen. "This is a great spot for her."

Shebelongstoyou usually runs well at Monmouth, with a record of 2-3-0 in five starts.

will find the Without Feathers an easier spot than her last race. The winner of the Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup Stakes at Delaware Park, Pleasant Chimes was no match for Smuggler last time out in Belmont's Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

Golden Locket won the Serena's Song Stakes earlier in the meet.

Redaspen and Pure Desire complete the field.