03/26/2004 1:00AM

Sunray Spirit fresh and dangerous


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The way he won a third-level allowance race the opening week of Aqueduct's inner-track meet, Sunray Spirit looked like he could be the top sprinter in New York this winter.

But in January, Sunray Spirit was eased as the second choice in the Paumonok Handicap and hasn't raced since. Sunday, Sunray Spirit returns to the races in a $52,000 classified allowance race over Aqueduct's main track.

, a 6-year-old son of Hennessy owned by the Darley Stable, is making only his 14th career start. He has four wins, including the Grade 3 Cowdin Stakes as a 2-year-old.

"He has not been a great mover in his time,'' Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Sunray Spirit, said. "He has always been a little funny behind, and he was a little funny behind [in the Paumonok] and didn't run well. We gave him time and fooled with him and he seems to be okay.''

Time off has served Sunray Spirit well in the past. He won the Cowdin following a two-month layoff. He was beaten only a neck in his 3-year-old debut off an 11-month layoff. Sunray Spirit's allowance win over the inner track in December followed a four-month layoff precipitated by a foot injury.

Sunday's race, run at six furlongs, came up highly competitive. , who won the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap over this track in 2002, will try to regain his form with this drop into allowance company. His last races came in the Deputy Minister and Richter Scale handicaps this winter.

"I had a feeling it might not set up good for him last time,'' Jerkens said of the Richter Scale. "He had to lay up a little closer and there were horses in that race that throw in that strong middle quarter and they ran away from him around the turn. He only got beat four lengths; it was much better than the first one.''

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. has hit a mini-slump, losing with his last 11 starters at Aqueduct entering the weekend. He runs Gracious Humor for the first time in this spot. Gracious Humor won 5 of 7 starts for trainer Frank Springer and comes off an optional claiming win on turf on Jan. 5 at Fair Grounds.

Spooky Mulder comes out of a swiftly run optional claiming race here on March 12. Spooky Mulder set the pace that day, but was passed by Secret Run, who covered six furlongs in 1:09.97 and earned a 111 Beyer Speed Figure.

Kazoo, Super Fuse, and Sing Me Back Home complete the field.