06/15/2008 11:00PM

Rice barn's fresh runners appear ready


ELMONT, N.Y. - With five weeks remaining before the opening of Saratoga, the dog days of Belmont Park's summer meet are fast approaching. Toward that end, any fresh stock is welcome, and trainer Linda Rice has a couple of well-rested horses entered in two of the three allowance races that highlight Wednesday's card.

Rice will send out Love Strikes in a second-level allowance for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt in race 3. In race 8, a third-level allowance at six furlongs on turf, she has the entry of Mor Chances and Huge City, though Mor Chances may not run. Both races carry an optional claiming tag of $50,000.

Love Strikes has not run since last Sept. 19, when she finished fifth in this condition at the Meadowlands.

Rice said Love Strikes has had "numerous issues" during her career, including bleeding through Lasix in the September race. However, Rice said Love Strikes has been training very well, and she is heartened by the fact that Wednesday's race came up relatively soft.

"I think she should come back very well," Rice said. "I thought for a two-other-than it looks like a pretty good spot."

Alan Garcia rides Love Strikes from post 4.

Tight Storm and Jessica Is Back are both entered for the $50,000 claiming tag. Tight Storm won a second-level allowance over Aqueduct's inner track in March, her first start for Winning Move Stable and trainer Gary Contessa. She has twice been defeated by double-digit lengths at the third-level allowance condition.

Jessica Is Back, who looms as the main speed from the rail, finished fifth in the same two races that Tight Storm comes out of. Honest to Betsy, trained by Dale Romans, drops a notch after beaten by three lengths by the undefeated By the Light in the Pearl City Stakes last out.

In the eighth race, Rice brings Huge City back off a February layoff and returns the 4-year-old City Zip gelding to the turf. Last summer at Saratoga, Huge City won a New York-bred allowance in gate-to-wire fashion on the turf eight days after finishing fifth in a similar spot. Though Huge City raced well on dirt over the inner track during the winter, Rice said his "preferred surface is probably the grass."

Huge City is one of many with speed in this field, which could set things up for Can't Refuse - who beat Huge City on turf last year and who drops from an overnight stakes try - and North Country or Five Towns.