08/25/2006 12:00AM

Round Pond back to races


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Round Pond, a multiple graded stakes winner last year, launches a comeback Sunday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park.

The 4-year-old Round Pond will be making her first start since beating Happy Ticket by a determined neck in a battle of Grade 1 winners in the Grade 3 Azeri Breeders' Cup Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 11. Round Pond has been sidelined since then with a foot problem.

This will be Round Pond's debut for Michael Matz, who took over her training in the spring when owner Rick Porter and trainer John Servis parted company.

"It's always nice to have a horse of her quality," Matz said. "She's a real nice horse to be around, and she showed it last year in her 3-year-old season. John did a real nice job with her, and hopefully we can continue."

Round Pond is 6 for 8 lifetime, including a win in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park last year.

Round Pond shows five workouts this summer, with two on wood chips, at the Fair Hills training center in Maryland.

"She's come back good," Matz said. "She's had a long time in between races. We're happy with the way she's working. We're happy with her feet right now, and hopefully that will continue."

At 1 1/16 miles, the Molly Pitcher should be an ideal fit for her. Round Pond is 3-1-0 in 4 starts at the distance. Joe Bravo, Monmouth's leading jockey, will be aboard for the first time.

Matz hopes the Molly Pitcher is the first step in a three-race series that culminates with the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"Our main goal is to get her to the Breeders' Cup," Matz said. "I want to give her one more start, maybe in the Beldame, and hopefully, if everything goes well, she could go to the Breeders' Cup."

The Grade 1, $600,000 Beldame will be run on Oct. 7 at Belmont.

"I just hope that she's ready to go right now," Matz said. "She's acting that way. I hope she doesn't fool us."

The field also includes the last two Molly Pitcher winners: La Reason (2004) and Capeside Lady (2005).

La Reason, trained by David Vance when she won the Molly Pitcher, is now in the Todd Pletcher barn. Capeside Lady, who won this race for Pletcher, is now trained by Scott Blasi.

Completing the field are Friel's for Real, Lexi Star, and Promenade Girl.