12/14/2006 1:00AM

Rivalry resumes at a new venue


MIAMI - What Saturday's $200,000 La Prevoyante Handicap lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality with Royal Highness, Safari Queen, and Barancella among the six fillies and mares entered to go 1 1/2 miles in the Grade 2 event at Calder.

Safari Queen and Royal Highness finished a half-length apart as the first two finishers in the Grade 2 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 4.

Safari Queen, a two-time Group 1 winner at 3 in her native Argentina, has improved for trainer Todd Pletcher since making her U.S. debut last winter at Gulfstream Park. Stretching out to 12 furlongs for the first time in the Long Island, Safari Queen rated in mid-pack, drew well clear in early stretch, then held on gamely to withstand Royal Highness's final surge. The victory was the third in the last five starts for Safari Queen, who will be reunited Saturday with jockey John Velazquez.

Royal Highness was conceding Safari Queen six pounds when she ran out of ground in the Long Island. She will carry high weight of 120 pounds in the La Prevoyante, a three-pound weight shift in her favor off the pair's previous meeting. The Long Island was Royal Highness's first start in this country. In her only other U.S. appearance, Royal Highness finished third against males despite racing wide around both turns in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont.

Royal Highness is one of two starters in the race from the barn of trainer Christophe Clement, who seeks to win the La Prevoyante for the fifth time. He has also entered recent entry-level allowance winner Doryphar.

The presence of Barancella assures the La Prevoyante won't be a two-horse race. The Bobby Frankel -trained Barancella has made only four starts in 2006, including an allowance win at Belmont and her recent second-place finish behind Arravale in Woodbine's Grade 1 E. P. Taylor.

Noe: Nightmare Affair vs. Mister Fotis

Local division leader Nightmare Affair and reigning champion Mister Fotis, are among the nine speedsters entered to go seven furlongs in the $100,000 Kenny Noe Handicap.

Nightmare Affair is coming off arguably the two best races of his career, third-place finishes behind Thor's Echo in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and Grade 1 De Francis Dash. Both those starts and each of his four victories this season, including the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap, have come at six furlongs.

Mister Fotis, on the other hand, has posted four of his six victories at the seven-furlong distance of the Kenny Noe, including far and away his best lifetime performance, a front-running 6 3/4-length triumph in this race last year. Mister Fotis was beaten nearly five lengths while finishing fifth behind Nightmare Affair in the Smile.

Weigelia, who rarely runs a poor one over this course, returns from his Laurel base in hopes of improving on a fourth-place finish as the even-money favorite in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap on Nov. 11. He finished a game third after contesting the pace to midstretch in the Smile.

The red-hot Paradise Dancer will receive a class check in the Noe, stepping up in company off a pair of overnight stakes victories that earned him career-best Beyer Speed Figures of 104 and 106.

Hooper: Wide-open field of 10

The most wide-open stakes on the card may be the $100,000 Fred Hooper Handicap, which brings together a field of 10 older horses, led by co-highweights Rehoboth and Siphon City.

Rehoboth and Siphon City are a contrast in styles and recent form.

Rehoboth, one of four 3-year-olds in the Hooper lineup, is a stretch-runner who has captured three of his last four starts, including the Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap by a nose over Dazzling Dr. Cevin.

Siphon City, on the other hand, is a 4-year-old speedster who has not hit the board in four starts since winning the Grade 2 Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap by six lengths on July 1.

Other key contenders in the Grade 3 Hooper are Kentucky invader Hesanoldsalt, a distant fourth earlier this year in the Grade 1 Travers; We Can Seek, a well-beaten fourth behind Invasor in the Grade 1 Whitney; and Dazzling Dr. Cevin, Big Lover, and B. B. Best.