01/13/2003 1:00AM

Queen back from layoff

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Even with dirt racing being so heavily emphasized in America, some horses have "grass" woven so strongly into their pedigrees that their trainers don't even bother with as much as one race on dirt.

Such has been the case with Party Queen, a 4-year-old filly by Cozzene out of a Theatrical mare. Purchased for $190,000 as yearling at the 2000 Keeneland September sales, Party Queen was given plenty of time to develop before trainer Vicki Oliver finally unveiled her in a maiden special weight turf route at Calder in Dec. 2001.

The results were successful, to say the least, as Party Queen drew off to win that day by nearly six lengths after being bet down to 5-2. In three subsequent starts, all on the grass, Party Queen has won twice more, with her only defeat coming to the multiple stakes winner Styleistick in a Gulfstream Park allowance last March.

Wednesday, Party Queen will try to extend her lifetime record to 4 for 5 when she returns to the races in the $38,000 feature at Gulfstream. Oliver, whose father, the influential Kentucky breeder G. Watts Humphrey, owns Party Queen, has taken the bay filly through a series of solid workouts at Payson Park since bringing her back from a layoff of several months. The last time Party Queen saw action was April 24, when she won a second-level allowance at Keeneland.

Although the layoff should make things interesting, Party Queen figures to be favored under Mark Guidry as she steps up to face third-level allowance foes.

Carded as the ninth of 10 races, the Wednesday feature drew 14 entrants, although only 10 will be allowed to start if the race remains on the grass.

Probably the top challenger to Party Queen is May Gator, who has not finished worse than third since she was claimed last summer by the Klein family of Louisville. Trained by Steve Flint, May Gator has a useful stalking style that should have her and jockey John Velazquez in a prime contending position in the turn for home.

Heritiere, an Australian-bred filly owned by French trainer Criquette Head, is another logical contender. She makes her second U.S. start for trainer Christophe Clement after having lost at Aqueduct in October.

Other possibilities from the main body of the race include Magic Storm, She's Vested, Send the Package, and Love Kiss.

First post for the ninth program of the meet is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

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