06/08/2007 12:00AM

Tagg's mare dangerous on the lead


ELMONT, N.Y. - With the multiple stakes winner Finlandia sustaining a possible career-ending injury, Sunday's $100,000 Mount Vernon Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares has emerged as a wide-open affair.

According to trainer Tom Bush, Finlandia chipped a knee in a recent workout and is likely to be retired. Her defection prompted a field of nine to be entered in the Mount Vernon, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on Belmont Park's inner turf.

Factual Contender, trained by Barclay Tagg, could be the controlling speed. The 6-year-old Factual Contender has 2 wins and a second from 4 grass starts. She comes off a gate-to-wire score in the Destiny's Dance, a

1 1/4-mile race run here May 3.

In that race, Factual Contender appeared much more relaxed than when she first began racing on the turf.

Half Heaven was sold last fall to dissolve a partnership between owners David Cassidy and Ed Lipton. Frank Stronach purchased Half Heaven as a broodmare prospect, but trainer Dale Romans said he thought she still had some races left in her.

Half Heaven has won three of her last four starts for Romans, all on Turfway Park's Polytrack. She returns to the turf for the first time since running ninth in the Ticonderoga over a yielding Belmont course last fall. Earlier in her career, Half Heaven won three races here.

"She did seem to love the Polytrack, but her form's not bad on the grass,'' Romans said. "I expect her to step up and run a big race.''

Rewrite and Homerette had solid 3-year-old campaigns last year and each had a productive prep race to begin this year. Rewrite faced open company, setting the pace before being run down by Dean's List and For Always and losing by a half-length. Sunday, she returns to New York-bred company and, most likely should get firm ground.

Though Rewrite can win from on the lead, Clement said he would like it better if jockey Javier Castellano could "put her to sleep and let her come with one big run. I think she's better that way.''

Homerette won twice on turf last year and comes off a four-length loss in a six-furlong open company race May 25.