03/11/2010 12:00AM

Sweet Goodbye saying hello to statebred competition


Sweet Goodbye has landed in a soft spot for the follow-up to the biggest victory of her 13-race career.

After upsetting the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap last month, Sweet Goodbye takes a steep class drop to face Maryland-bred fillies and mares in Saturday's $70,000 Conniver Stakes at Laurel Park.

The Conniver, which drew a field of seven, will be contested at the same seven-furlong distance as the Barbara Fritchie, but in Saturday's race Sweet Goodbye must carry 124 pounds - seven more than she toted while rallying from 11th to get up by a head on Feb. 15 in the Fritchie.

In four starts at the Conniver distance, Sweet Goodbye is unbeaten, including in three stakes.

"She came out of the Fritchie in great shape and has been training well," trainer Chris Grove said. "I wasn't planning on running her in this spot but she bounced back so quickly she made me put her in here. I think we found our niche with her at seven-eighths. She is able to settle off the pace and close really strong."

In her last three starts, the 5-year-old Sweet Goodbye has put together Beyer Speed Figures of 91, 91, and 90. The only two opponents she faces Saturday to have come close to those numbers are All Giving and Fascinatin' Rhythm. One has been off for a long time, while the other is in bad form.

All Giving, winner of the seven-furlong Maryland Million Distaff Handicap the last time she faced statebreds in September, has not raced since late November. Her trainer, Flint Stites, is just 4 for 58 with sprinters returning from layoffs of 61 to 180 days the last three years, according to DRF's Formulator. He is 1 for 1, however, in that category with All Giving, who won the Conniver two years ago.

Fascinatin' Rhythm, first or second in 8 of 10 starts at Laurel, is winless in 11 starts since December 2008 and finished more than 10 lengths behind Sweet Goodbye in the Barbara Fritchie. On the bright side, her last good race came going seven furlongs against Maryland-breds in December.

Among the others, Sterling Vow merits some interest. She connected at 36-1 when facing Maryland-breds for the first time in the seven-furlong Squan Song. But that was three months ago, she hasn't raced since then, and her trainer, Ron Sweeney, is just 1 for 11 with sprinters returning from long layoffs.

Sweet Goodbye's uncoupled stablemate Heaven's Voice was beaten a length in the Squan Song and comes off a troubled second in the Correction at Aqueduct.