10/20/2004 11:00PM

'Punch' unbeaten this year

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Perhaps Sugar Punch can ease the pain of New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, whose team lost the American League pennant on Wednesday to the Boston Red Sox.

Torre co-owns Sugar Punch, who is among the main contenders in Saturday's $125,000 Iroquois at Belmont Park for New York-bred fillies and mares. Seven entered the seven-furlong race.

, a 3-year-old, is undefeated in five starts this year, including a 3 1/2-length victory in a solid field of older fillies and mares in the Schenectady. If she has any holes, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. hasn't unearthed them.

"Judging by the way she has trained, she'll run well," Dutrow said. "She doesn't need the lead, and I don't think the pace will help or hurt her."

Edgar Prado rides Sugar Punch, the 120-pound highweight, from post 6.

So Sweet a Cat is the queen of Finger Lakes, but she has also won at Belmont and Aqueduct. She is 5 for 7 this year.

"We'll see how good she is," said Ralph D'Alessandro, So Sweet a Cat's trainer. "If I had my choice, I wouldn't be running against Dutrow's horse."

Another quality 3-year-old in the field is Fleet Indian, who has won 3 races in 4 starts at Belmont. Like Sugar Punch and So Sweet a Cat, Fleet Indian has early speed.

"She has speed, but if she gets off by herself, she waits," said Jim Toner, Fleet Indian's trainer. "Her best race is when she is tracking something, and it looks like there is enough speed here for her to do that."

Beautiful America, eighth in last year's Iroquois, enters the race in better form this year. She finished a closing fourth in the Schenectady and should appreciate the extra furlong she gets here. The likelihood of a strong pace will benefit Beautiful America, who came within a neck of beating Sugar Punch in the Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga.

Then She Laughs adds more speed to the mix. She finished third in the Grade 3 Safely Kept at Pimlico in her last start. Martin Ciresa, Then She Laughs' trainer, was pleased with her effort at Pimlico.

"The track was a little heavy for her at Pimlico because of the way she hits the ground," Ciresa. "I didn't have her shod correctly, and she ran down. It was a great effort, and set her up perfectly for Saturday."