05/16/2006 12:00AM

Silvestris takes on elders

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Silvestris, who ran in three stakes sprints at the turn of the year, including a front-running win in the Ruthless, returns from a three-month layoff in Thursday's eighth race at Belmont Park.

The second-level allowance/optional claimer drew a field of six fillies and mares. As the lone 3-year-old, Silvestris gets up to eight pounds from her older rivals.

breaks from post 5 with leading rider Eibar Coa, who was aboard for her win in the Ruthless and her maiden win at Belmont last fall. Both came on good tracks, so any potential rain isn't seen as a problem by trainer Tom Albertrani.

"She actually does like some moisture in the ground," he said.

Handicappers will have to decide how much emphasis to place on Silvestris's last race, in the Dearly Precious Stakes, when she faded to finish fourth of five as the 1-2 favorite.

"That particular day she was off a step slow and ran up behind horses and just kind of flattened out," Albertrani said. "She was getting a little light, so we backed off and freshened her up for a spring-summer campaign."

The only rival who may be able to match strides with Silvestris on the backstretch is Birthday Song, a shipper from Gulfstream who makes her first start for trainer Bruce Levine.

Though has been at her best at seven furlongs to a mile, she has set or pressed the pace in all seven starts over the past two years. Her best race came in defeat in March 2005, when beaten less than a length by eventual Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home.

Also in Thursday's field are , Star Celebrity, Fighting Speedy, and Kelly K's Pleasure.

Race 7 is a first-level allowance scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the Widener turf, and it should be quite interesting because of the presence of the Bobby Frankel-trained Racketeer, who was beaten a nose for third in the San Felipe by subsequent Wood Memorial winner Bob and John. Last time out, Racketeer ran a disappointing sixth as the third choice in the Illinois Derby.

"He was a mess in the paddock," Frankel said. "It was too much shipping. First time out at Belmont he ran a really good race on this course, and if it comes off the turf, he'll run on the dirt anyway."

Other contenders include Solewisher, Mystic Ruler, Mr. Hamlen, and Outperformance.