10/26/2006 12:00AM

Rain, fast pace favor Annika Lass


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The prospect of a wet track, the likelihood of a fast pace, and the presence of Edgar Prado make Annika Lass an attractive proposition in Saturday's Gradeo2, $150,000 First Flight Handicap at Aqueduct.

The First Flight, run at seven furlongs, is one of two graded stakes races on Saturday's card. The Gradeo3, $100,000 Sport Page Breeders' Cup is also on the nine-race card. With heavy rains in the forecast, the New York Racing Association opted to postpone the Grade 3, $100,000 Knickerbocker Handicap and reschedule that turf race for next Saturday.

A field of 10 was entered for the First Flight, but a wet track could cause a few to scratch. Great Intentions, who beat Annika Lass by four lengths in the Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park, couldn't handle a wet track when she finished sixth as the favorite in the La Brea at Santa Anita on Dec. 31.

Moreover, Great Intention's trainer, Mike Hushion, would probably have preferred an inside draw for his speedy filly, who drew post 9.

Annika Lass had an inside draw in the Gallant Bloom. She broke sharply and then dropped back while saving ground. She split horses in the stretch, was tipped to the outside by Cornelio Velasquez, and was able to rally to be second.

"It was the first time in a while she was able to run where she trained," said Toby Sheets, the assistant to trainer Scott Blasi. "That's always a plus. She ran well at Aqueduct while training here earlier in the year."

Annika Lass finished third in a pair of Grade 2 stakes here in the spring. She breaks from the rail in her third start off a layoff and gets a switch from Velasquez to Prado.

Win McCool won the Grade 3 Floral Park Handicap in gate-to-wire fashion on Sept. 16. She dueled with Great Intentions in the Gallant Bloom before fading to fourth.

"She lost a front shoe in her last race and that's what got her beat, because she was just galloping at the three-eighths pole," trainer Robert Barbara said.

Splendid Blended won the Steven Van Buren Handicap in the slop at Philadelphia Park before finishing fourth in the Turfway Park Breeders' Cup Handicap over Polytrack. She figures to bring more speed to the party.

Swap Fliparoo won the Grade 1 Test the last time she ran seven furlongs. She has run poorly in two starts since that race, but she is 2 for 2 at Aqueduct. Allen Jerkens, who trains Swap Fliparoo, also sends out Grecian Lover, who finished second in a restricted stakes at Belmont last out.

Notimetoquit, Carmandia, Pleasant Laughter, and Heavenly Psalm complete the field.