07/02/2001 12:00AM

Songandaprayer comes back

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Songandaprayer returns to Monmouth Park for the first time since his debut over a year ago in Wednesday's Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup. Five 3-year-olds entered the six-furlong race, including Grade 1 winner City Zip.

Songandaprayer, trained by John Dowd, won his maiden here on June 15 last year at 1-5. Owned primarily by Bobby Hurley, Songandaprayer, a $1 million 2-year-old sale purchase, won the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 17 at Gulfstream Park, and was pointed to the Kentucky Derby.

Songandaprayer set the fastest pace in Derby history - 22.25 seconds, 44.86, and 1:09.25 - before fading to 13th. Since that race, Dowd has given Songandaprayer time off to recuperate from a tough winter and spring campaign. Songandaprayer has worked extremely well and seems primed to fire.

"This is an important race for him after coming out of the Derby," Dowd said. "We wouldn't run him if he wasn't ready."

Songandaprayer will be ridden by Joe Bravo. Songandaprayer breaks from the outside post, which Dowd feels is to the colt's advantage.

"I'm happy with the post," he said. "Unlike the Derby, where he was trapped on the rail and had to break for the lead, here we can see what the others decide to do."

Despite having run in routes throughout his 3-year-old season, Songandaprayer should have no problem sprinting. He was 2 for 2 sprinting as a juvenile.

The Jersey Shore could turn into a match race between Songandaprayer and City Zip. The Linda Rice-trained City Zip won the Grade 1 Hopeful in a dead heat at Saratoga last summer, completing a sweep of the 2-year-old stakes there.

City Zip's last race was a three-length victory in the Hirsch Jacobs at Pimlico on May 12. He earned a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure in that six-furlong race, and ended a seven-race losing streak. Many of those losses, though, came at longer distances, and City Zip's best races have come sprinting.

"We'll keep him running at distances from six furlongs to a mile from now on," Rice said. "That's where he does his best running."

Starting from the rail, the field for the Jersey Shore is Sea of Green, Harry Vega up; San Mont Andreas, Patrick Husbands; Multiple Choice, Eibar Coa; City Zip, Jose Ferrer; and Songandaprayer.