05/16/2008 12:00AM

Sweet Vendetta surprises in Black-Eyed Susan


BALTIMORE - When discussing a possible start in May for Sweet Vendetta, co-owner David Cassidy and trainer Gary Contessa at first thought small, examining the Bouwerie Stakes for New York-breds on May 4 at Belmont Park. But then Contessa convinced Cassidy to aim higher. On Friday at Pimlico Race Course, Cassidy probably wanted to tell Contessa, "I think I love you."

Sweet Vendetta, making her first start in a graded stakes race, ran down Shes All Eltish in the final yards to score a 1 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Cassidy, the the one-time teen star of "The Partridge Family" who has been breeding and racing horses for three decades, said it was the biggest win of his career.

It also might have been his luckiest. Sweet Vendetta ($17.40) benefitted from the antics of Shes All Eltish, who ducked in badly a furlong from the wire in the 1 1/8-mile race. Garrett Gomez, who rode Shes All Eltish, said his filly was spooked by the starting gate, which was sitting parallel against the outside rail at the eighth pole.

"She saw it and ducked in. It scared her," said Gomez, who said he thought that misstep cost Shes All Eltish the race.

Channing Hill rode Sweet Vendetta, who completed 1 1/8 miles on a track rated muddy in 1:49.60. The victory was her third in seven lifetime starts, including the Andover Way Stakes on Aqueduct's inner dirt course on March 19.

Cassidy bred Sweet Vendetta, a daughter of Stephen Got Even, in partnership with Ed Lipton. Cassidy bought out Lipton, then took on another partner, Team Penney Racing, to campaign Sweet Vendetta.

Seattle Smooth, an invader from California, rallied belatedly to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind Shes All Eltish.

Sherine, who won the Comely Stakes at Aqueduct in her last start, was sent quickly from the gate and led through fractions of 23.65 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.62 for a half-mile, and 1:12.17 for six furlongs. Shes All Eltish moved three paths wide to challenge for the lead on the far turn, while Sweet Vendetta came rolling inside on the turn before tipping out for room at the top of the lane.