05/14/2010 12:00AM

Seattle Smooth obvious choice


ELMONT, N.Y. - Seattle Smooth, who won the Grade 2, $150,000 Shuvee Handicap as the prohibitive favorite a year ago, will be odds-on again when she returns from an 11-month layoff to defend her title in Saturday's 35th running of the one-mile race at Belmont Park. Her task was made easier earlier this week, when Careless Jewel, last year's Alabama winner, had her seasonal debut postponed for a second time.

So, only four older fillies and mares oppose Seattle Smooth, who has won five consecutive stakes since she was turned over to Tony Dutrow, including the Grade 2 Fitz Dixon Cotillion in 2008, and the Grade 2 Bed o' Roses, Shuvee, and Grade 1 Ogden Phipps last year.

Seattle Smooth was put away with some bruising of her ankles after winning the Phipps last June. She returned to the work tab at Palm Meadows in March, and has had five workouts since arriving back at Aqueduct.

"I had her as a 3-year-old, as a 4-year-old, and now as a 5-year-old, and she's always been good," said Dutrow in evaluating her current fitness level. "I remember going into the Shuvee last year and I was 'over the top' with her. I don't know if she's 100 percent there yet, but she's very good right now and I'm very happy with her."

Seattle Smooth breaks from the rail under Jeremy Rose, replacing Ramon Dominguez, who is at Pimlico. The 5-year-old Seattle Smooth concedes five to eight pounds to Don't Forget Gil, Milwaukee Appeal, Funny Moon, and Solo Piano.

"She's got the one-hole, and the other riders will be conscious of her - that's the one thing that's on my mind," said Dutrow. "I anticipate they will have her where they want her, and hopefully she is enough horse to push her way through. Obviously, she got along well with Ramon, but Jeremy is a very patient rider, and I don't see her having any issues."

Funny Moon rose to prominence at Belmont last year for Christophe Clement, winning 3 of 4 starts at the spring-summer meet capped by a last-to-first triumph in the Coaching Club American Oaks. She was put away after a last-place finish in the Alabama, and returned with a runner-up finish in last month's Doubledogdare on Keeneland's Polytrack.

Milwaukee Appeal, the Woodbine Oaks winner and Alabama runner-up, makes her first start since running fourth in the Gazelle last Nov. 28.