07/30/2008 12:00AM

'Sweetness' in role of spoiler


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Sophia's Reward came back from a long layoff and almost won at Arlington Park, but another comebacking layoff horse, Sweetness 'n Light, might stand between Sophia's Reward and a long overdue second career victory in Friday's featured ninth race.

Sophia's Reward has post 1, Sweetness 'n Light post 2 in an eight-horse, entry-level, six-furlong allowance on Polytrack, and even beyond the top two, the race is decent for the class level. Pisces Poem is a three-time winner this meet. Delilah's Seven looked pretty good winning a high-end maiden-claimer last out at Churchill. Jade's Quest's maiden win June 27 produced the highest win payoff ($110.80) of the meet, and she was a decent third last out in her first race against winners. Altered State, fourth in a two-turn turf race July 3 at Churchill, was good enough last year to finish second of nine in a Saratoga allowance race.

What all those horses lack, and what Sophia's Reward has, is early speed. On June 29, making her first start in almost 18 months, Sophia's Reward dashed to the lead, fought hard all the way, and finished second by a head. What's more, that race was a second-level allowance, and now Sophia's Reward drops back into her proper, entry-level allowance condition.

But in Sweetness 'n Light, she faces a filly who could turn out to be much better than the typical denizen of a mid-summer entry-level allowance for older horses. Sweetness 'n Light lost her debut here last summer by a whisker, finishing with a flourish to just miss the winner while 15 lengths clear of the show horse. She won her maiden by more than three in an 11-horse Keeneland race, and seemed poised for a strong winter at Fair Grounds. But Sweetness 'n Light did not look quite like herself when she finished a well-beaten second on Nov. 30, and by mid-winter, after a flat fourth-place performance on Jan. 28, Sweetness 'n Light went to the sidelines.

"It was nothing major," said Mike Stidham, who trains Sweetness 'n Light for the Pin Oak Stable. "She tailed off in her training, and she was just a big, growthy filly going through some growing pains."

Sweetness 'n Light's work pattern looks strong on paper, and Stidham said the filly hits her comeback spot in good form.

"Since she's come back, she's been training really well," Stidham said. "The only thing going against her is needing maybe a little more distance."