09/08/2004 11:00PM

Stellar Jayne continues title hunt


ELMONT, N.Y. - A solid summer that included a Grade 1 victory in the Mother Goose Stakes and runner-up performances in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama have put in contention for top honors in the 3-year-old filly division with Ashado and Society Selection.

Neither of those fillies was entered for Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Gazelle, in which Stellar Jayne will face eight rivals, including graded stakes winners . The Gazelle is one of three Grade 1 races on Belmont's 10-race card, which includes the Man o' War and Woodward Stakes.

The conditions of the Gazelle, run at 1 1/8 miles around one turn, are identical to those of the Mother Goose, a race Stellar Jayne won by 2 1/2 lengths over division leader Ashado. Stellar Jayne, who has finished in front of Ashado twice in four meetings this year, has caught wet tracks in her last two starts.

Though Saturday's forecast calls for dry conditions, it is uncertain whether Belmont's main track will have dried out from the more than three inches of rain that fell here Wednesday and Thursday. Peter Hutton, the assistant to Stellar Jayne's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said he doesn't believe the surface will matter.

"It'd be great to have a good track, but if it did come up sloppy I wouldn't be panicking," Hutton said. "She's doing great. When she worked here the other day, it was one of those jaw-dropping works. Her energy's good. Wayne was concerned about her energy level, but when I came in this morning she was running around the stall squealing."

Stellar Jayne, the 122-pound highweight, will break from post 2 under Robby Albarado.

Lukas's former assistant Todd Pletcher wouldn't mind seeing it wet. Pletcher entered Capeside Lady, who is 4 for 5 over a wet track, including a gate-to-wire score in the Grade 2 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks last time out.

Capeside Lady and Bending Strings could make things difficult for Stellar Jayne in the first flight of horses. A contested pace would be helpful for Shadow Cast, Magicial Illusion, He Loves Me, and Daydreaming.

After dealing with an abscess in her neck that hampered her during the summer, Shadow Cast appears to be back to the winter form that won her the Silverbulletday Stakes. Her two races since trainer Neil Howard removed her blinkers have been good.

Magical Illusion and Daydreaming are capable, but neither has run her best in graded company.

The field

Gazelle Handicap
Purse: $250,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

1DaydreamingJ. Velazquez1153-1
2Stellar JayneR. Albarado1222-1
3Capeside LadyC. DeCarlo119 5-1
4Shadow CastR. Migliore11915-1
5Mambo BellJ. Castellano11520-1
6He Loves MeJ. Santana11712-1
7Bending StringsP. Day11710-1
8Magical IllusionE. Prado115 4-1
9My LordshipC. Velasquez11720-1

* Odds by Brian Pochman