05/25/2006 11:00PM

Sis City back where it all started


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Sis City returns to Monmouth Park, the scene of the victory that launched her career, for the $65,000 Fort Monmouth Stakes on Sunday.

The 4-year-old looms a solid favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares with her tremendous back class and her always formidable trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr.

Dutrow claimed her for $50,000 at Saratoga in the summer of her 2-year-old season. Sis City's next start was Monmouth's Mongo Queen Stakes, and the results were dazzling: a 16-length victory.

That eye-opening win was the springboard to greater glory. She closed out her first season with a third in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park, a fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star Park, and a pacesetting victory in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct.

The best was yet to come early in her 3-year-old campaign last year.

Sis City started the year with a pair of double-digit wins, by 16 lengths in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park and by 10 1/2 lengths in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. In each victory, Sis City took charge early and never looked back.

She has not won since the Ashland, however. She ran fourth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks as the 3-5 favorite, and followed that with fourth-place finishes in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park and the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga.

Given an eight-month break, Sis City returned to tackle turf for the first time in the Grade 3 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on the eve of this year's Kentucky Derby. She set the pace before fading to eighth.

Sis City now goes turf to dirt for her first non-graded race since the Mongo Queen.

"The last start, she was back from a little vacation," said assistant trainer Roberto Calvo. "She came out of that race okay. We're very happy with her, and she really likes this track."

Tim Hills was not happy to see Sis City among the entrants. He sends out , who tries to rebound from a fifth-place finish as the 9-5 favorite in an Illinois-bred stakes at Hawthorne.

"The track at Hawthorne was a lot deeper and heavier than she was used to training on," Hills said. "In hindsight, I should have sent her up [from Florida] early and given her a work over the track. She looked like a winner turning for home but she was short."

That shouldn't happen again.

"I changed her training a little bit," Hills said. "I pushed her more in her gallops coming up this race."

Toll Taker has a record of 3-1-2 in 7 Monmouth starts, including an off-the-turf win last year in the Boiling Springs Stakes.

Will Praying for Cash go long?

Kelly Breen, Monmouth's leading trainer last year, still has unresolved distance questions about Praying for Cash, his talented 3-year-old.

Breen will seek answers starting with the Coronado's Quest Stakes here at one mile and 70 yards on June 25.

"We want to see if there is a road we can take to the Haskell, if he's that good," Breen said. "We need to see if he can get two turns."

The $1 million Haskell Invitational, the centerpiece of the meet, will be run on Aug. 6.

A son of Fountain of Youth winner Songandaprayer, Praying for Cash made a splash last summer when he impressively won his debut here at five furlongs.

Breen put him away after that race due to "baby issues, nothing serious."

Praying for Cash returned at Gulfstream over the winter, running third in an allowance race and sixth in the Grade 2 Swale Stakes.

Back at Monmouth, Praying for Cash was an easy winner on May 14. He has not run beyond seven furlongs.

"We're going to let the horse tell us what he can do," Breen said. "There isn't any reason he can't go that far. His daddy went two turns. Maybe he can, too."

Two stakes on holiday card

The holiday weekend at Monmouth concludes Monday with an 11-race card starting at 12:50 p.m. It features two $65,000 stakes, the Wolf Hill at six furlongs and the Spend a Buck for 3-year-olds going one mile.

Wild Jam, the beaten favorite in the J. Edgar Hoover Stakes at Pimlico, faces five rivals in the Wolf Hill, while Electrify, winner of the Unbridled Stakes at Calder, looks for a third straight victory in the Spend a Buck.