09/06/2001 12:00AM

Rested and ready, Fleet Renee looks tough

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ELMONT, N.Y. - If Fleet Renee is as good off a 10-week layoff as she was here in June off an eight-week freshening, she should win Saturday's Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap at Belmont Park.

When last seen at Belmont, Fleet Renee ran the race of her life to win the Grade 1 Mother Goose by 5 1/2 lengths. Although she hadn't run in eight weeks, her time of 1:47.19 was the second-fastest clocking for the Mother Goose in 43 runnings at nine furlongs.

Although a minor problem kept her out of last month's Alabama and a showdown with Flute, trainer Michael Dickinson said he believes Fleet Renee is better than ever coming into Saturday's $250,000 Gazelle, also at nine furlongs on dirt.

"I'd say she's as good if not better than she was before the Mother Goose," Dickinson said Thursday from his Tapeta Farm in North East, Md., where Fleet Renee blew out three furlongs Thursday in 38 seconds on the turf. "She's moving better than at any time since before the Ashland."

Fleet Renee won the Grade 1 Ashland, upsetting then-division leader Golden Ballet, who has since been retired. Fleet Renee was no match for Flute in the Kentucky Oaks, however, finishing a distant fourth.

In a race void of speed, Fleet Renee, the 122-pound highweight, figures to be on or near the lead in the Gazelle under John Velazquez. Indy Pick, an entry-level allowance winner at Saratoga, looms the other potential speed under Pat Day and 114 pounds.

Trainer David Hofmans is hoping for a much more pleasant experience with his 3-year-old filly Starrer than the last time he shipped her to New York. Starrer was the 4-5 favorite for the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, but stumbled two jumps out of the gate and unseated jockey Chris McCarron. She stepped on herself while running around the track and has not raced since.

Hofmans put in a series of strong workouts into the filly, including a seven-furlong move in 1:24.60 at Del Mar on Aug. 24.

"It's a little tougher race than she was in last time. There are several nice horses in there, but I think she's pretty fit," Hofmans said.

Caressing, last year's juvenile filly champion, showed marked improvement when winning the Grade 3 Singamore Plate Stakes at Arlington. It was her first start wearing blinkers. She did not handle Belmont when she finished fifth in the Grade 1 Acorn in June, lending credence to trainer David Vance's belief that she prefers two turns.

Exogenous, who finished second in both the Coaching Club and Alabama, adds blinkers for the Gazelle. Graded stakes winners Real Cozzy and Two Item Limit as well as allowance winner Transcendental complete the field.

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