01/23/2002 12:00AM

Recency gives Batique a big edge


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Batique and Snow Dance will share highweight of 119 pounds in Friday's $100,000 De La Rose Handicap at Gulfstream Park. But there's nothing equal about the way the two favorites come into the race.

While Batique has a pair of recent victories, Snow Dance returns from a 10-week vacation that could put her at a disadvantage in the battle for top honors in the Grade 3 stakes.

The De La Rose drew a field of 13 and will be decided at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Batique has won the My Charmer and Honey Fox handicaps since shipping to south Florida last month and is in the best form of her career. In fact, she is doing so well trainer Michael Matz decided to run her in the De La Rose instead of passing the race to await the Suwannee River Stakes on March 13.

A daughter of Storm Cat, Batique is in the process of winding down her racing career; she's scheduled to be bred to Rahy later this season.

Snow Dance, on the other hand, appears to have a bright future ahead of her after winning five of six starts, including three graded stakes since trainer John Ward Jr. switched her to the turf last summer. But like most of Ward's older horses she's not likely to be primed for her best effort first time off the layoff.

"As you've already seen, I've been in a conservative mode at this meet and I'm not going to change that theory now," said Ward.

Snow Dance suffered her only loss on turf in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II when she finished a game third behind Affluent and Golden Apples after being hard used contesting the pace.

"She doesn't have to be on the lead but she likes to be up close and I don't want to put her at a disadvantage by taking her natural attribute away," said Ward.

Pat Day will be aboard Snow Dance for the first time in the De La Rose.

Veil of Avalon, who scratched from the Honey Fox because of a soft course, and Musical appear to have the best chance of upsetting the top pair.

Veil of Avalon has shown steady improvement since launching her U.S. career here last winter and displayed her class finishing third behind Spook Express in the Grade 2 Winstar Galaxy Stakes.

Musical won her first two starts on grass before turning in disappointing efforts in her last pair but has trained extremely well at Payson Park for her return.

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