11/27/2008 12:00AM

Small doubles up in stakes


Running two horses in Laurel Park's Squan Song Stakes worked out so well for trainer Richard Small last year that he's trying the same tactic again.

Small won the 2007 running of the $50,000 restricted stakes with For Kisses and took third with Take a Check. Saturday, Small will saddle the uncoupled entry of the 3-year-old filly Fascinatin' Rhythm and the

6-year-old mare Take a Check in the seven-furlong Squan Song, which is restricted to Maryland-bred fillies and mares who have never won a stakes.

Fascinatin' Rhythm has 3 wins and 1 second in her 4 starts locally. Two weeks ago, facing Maryland-breds for the first time in her six-race career, Fascinatin' Rhythm finished second going 1 1/16 miles in the Northern Dancer.

Her stablemate Take a Check was good enough to finish third in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap in 2006, but she's 1 for 22 the past two seasons and winless in 11 starts this year.

Fascinatin' Rhythm is likely to vie for favoritism with the Scott Lake-trained Vicar's Vixen. Although she was running for a $10,000 claiming tag in February, the 4-year-old Vicar's Vixen has improved greatly since then, posting four consecutive Beyer Speed Figures in the narrow range of 83 to 89.

Trainers Graham Motion and Chris Grove each bring back a horse who has been idle since May, and based on their record with sprinters returning from long layoffs, both the Motion-trained Real Property and the Grove-trained Two Columbus must be respected.

Motion shows a 4-for-9 record with horses returning from a break of 180 days or more in races at 6 1/2 to seven furlongs, according to DRF's Formulator. Grove is 7 for 17 in the same category.

Two Columbus is the only one of the pair to have won at seven furlongs.

Now It Begins, who missed by a neck in last year's Squan Song, is back for another shot. She makes the second start of her form cycle, significant because last year under similar circumstances she won an optional claiming race going seven furlongs.