06/28/2008 12:00AM

Proud Spell vs. just 3 in Mother Goose

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Barbara D. Livingston
Proud Spell, who will break from post 2, has already won at Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell will have only three challengers when she returns to the races in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park.

The Mother Goose, run at 1 1/8 miles, shares billing on Belmont's 10-race card with the Grade 1, $400,000 Suburban Handicap for older males. The Suburban drew a competitive field of eight, all in search of their first Grade 1 stakes victory.

The Mother Goose basically kicks off the second half of the season for Proud Spell, who ended the first half with a dominant five-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 2. She also won the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, handing last year's juvenile filly champion Indian Blessing her first defeat.

Trainer Larry Jones gave Proud Spell a freshening following the Kentucky Oaks, sending her to the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland to prepare. Jones said he has been extremely pleased with how Proud Spell has been training.

Proud Spell, who will break from post 2, has already won at Belmont, taking the Grade 2 Matron last September going seven furlongs. She came from well off the pace in that race. In the Kentucky Oaks, Proud Spell stalked a moderate pace.

"She's going to be able to do what she needs to do," Jones said. "She can lay as close as she needs to. If they want to go, she's shown she can come from way off the pace."

While Proud Spell is a three-time graded stakes winner, none of her three rivals has even run in a graded event. Music Note, a daughter of A.P. Indy, looms the main threat coming off a seven-length win in a first-level allowance race here on May 22.

"Nine furlongs at Belmont should be right up her sleeve," said Rick Mettee, who serves as the assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who is expected here on Saturday. "Unfortunately, it's probably up Proud Spell's sleeve, too. We know we're going against the best 3-year-old filly in the country, but sometimes you got take a shot."

Music Note, owned by Godolphin Racing, breaks from post 4 under Javier Castellano.

Hamsa has gone 2 for 2 since trainer Barclay Tagg added blinkers to her equipment. She showed a determined three-furlong run in her last race, when it appeared she was backing up entering the far turn.

Never Retreat, third in the Susan's Girl at Delaware Park, completes the field.