12/13/2006 1:00AM

Shmooo primed for return

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The last time Shmooo raced, he was a 3-year-old running in a stakes on Kentucky Derby Day. It has taken 19 months for Shmooo to recover sufficiently from ankle surgery to race again.

Based on his previous flashes of talent and trainer Tony Dutrow's knack for having his runners ready to win first time back following lengthy layoffs, Shmooo looms a serious contender in Friday's eighth race at Aqueduct, a $45,000 first-level allowance at six furlongs.

Shmooo opened some eyes when he came from off the pace to win his career debut over Aqueduct's main track by 2 1/4 lengths in March 2005, paying $39.60 and earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

Dutrow was sufficiently impressed to jump Shmooo directly into the Francis "Jock" LaBelle Memorial at Delaware Park on May 7, 2005. Despite breaking a step slowly and getting off last of nine, Shmooo proved competitive, missing second by a nose while 4 1/4 lengths clear of the fourth-place horse.

A condylar fracture then sent Shmooo to the sidelines. But as Dutrow pointed out, "Horses generally do well coming back from that kind of physical injury."

Shmooo has trained well for his comeback, showing three consecutive five-furlong workouts at Delaware, the last a bullet in 1:00.20 on Nov. 29. "I'm very happy with him," Dutrow said. "He's looking very good."

Dutrow is 12 for 29 with horses returning from layoffs of longer than 180 days the past two years.

Shmooo should get sufficient pace to set up his late run, thanks to the presence of front-runners Unaffected and Guns Drawn.

Unaffected earned a 99 Beyer winning his maiden at Saratoga and has finished second in two subsequent starts.

Guns Drawn adds blinkers for the second start of his form cycle. His only victory came in a turf sprint at Calder.

In addition to Shmooo, Justa Streak and Gone Prospecting are returning from long layoffs.

Justa Streak, trained by Todd Pletcher, hasn't started since winning his maiden at Gulfstream last January. He has good early speed and breaks from the rail.

Gone Prospecting has been idle since finishing last of 10 in the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland in April.