07/29/2008 12:00AM

Prominent fillies back in sprint allowance


DEL MAR, Calif. - There are just three Grade 1 races for 2-year-old fillies in Southern California. Last year, Set Play won one of them, the Del Mar Debutante, and Cry and Catch Me won another, the Oak Leaf Stakes.

Both have been on the sidelines for months, but on Thursday at Del Mar, in an otherwise nondescript second-level allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs that goes as the featured seventh race, both return to action, adding quite a bit of spice to the midweek card.

Set Play was a 14-1 upset winner of the Del Mar Debutante. She has lost five straight since then, however. She made just one start earlier this year, in February at Santa Anita, then was given a vacation.

"She didn't have anything specifically wrong with her," said Set Play's trainer, Peter Miller. "We did a nuclear scan on her, and a lot of areas lit up. It showed there were a lot of changes going on. Growing pains. She had had a tough campaign."

Miller said Del Mar was an ideal spot to come back because "we know she likes this racetrack." In addition to her victory in the Debutante, Set Play was second in the Sorrento Stakes here last summer.

Cry and Catch Me has been gone far longer, more than 10 months. After winning the Oak Leaf, she was pointed for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but she got sick at Monmouth Park after entering the race and was scratched.

"We had to leave her back there for a month. She got sick from shipping," said her trainer, Bob Baffert. "But then she got a shin on her and needed four months off. Coming back from a long layoff, she looks good."

Both have a right to come back firing. Cry and Catch Me ran well in both her sprints last year. She was a sharp second in her debut, so she can be effective fresh, and then she defeated maidens at Del Mar. Set Play won her debut and has proven to be far more effective sprinting than going long.

Seven others are entered in the race.

Down has run well in her two sprints on synthetic surfaces, at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. This will be her first start at Del Mar. She is turning back from a race at 1 1/16 miles, so she should be finishing well.

Czechers and Look Deep figure to help set a contested pace and may be used to get position from their outside draws. Both won races sprinting here last summer.