12/04/2003 1:00AM

Top two contenders draw better posts in rescheduled Geisha


The top two contenders in the Geisha Handicap at Laurel Park got a huge break when the race, postponed last weekend, was redrawn for Saturday's program.

The $100,000 Geisha, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for Maryland-bred fillies and mares, headlines a nine-race card that also includes the $60,000 Politely, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

Shiny Sheet, the winner of last year's Geisha, and Undercover, victorious in her last three starts, will still be next to each other in the starting gate. But instead of getting stuck on the far outside in posts 8 and 9, a severe disadvantage in a 1 1/16-mile race with a short run to the first turn, Shiny Sheet and Undercover will break from posts 3 and 4, respectively.

The 5-year-old Shiny Sheet takes a class drop after posting three consecutive solid Beyer Speed Figures of 97-96-90, running against males in the Maryland Million Classic and facing open company in two stakes. Two starts ago, she easily won the one-mile Cordially at Delaware. A repeat of any of her last three performances would be sufficient to beat this field.

Undercover, a 4-year-old filly, has been off since cruising to a 4 1/2-length win in the 1 1/8-mile Gala Lil in March. Her trainer, Tony Dutrow, has won with 10 of 19 runners coming off layoffs of more than 180 days the past two seasons.

A win by any of the other eight horses in the field would be a surprise. One potential upsetter is True Sensation, who finished only 1 3/4 lengths behind Shiny Sheet the last time she raced on the main track in the 1 1/8-mile Obeah Handicap at Delaware. True Sensation will be making her first start in nearly two months, and she is reunited with jockey Ramon Dominguez, who rode her when she beat optional claimers at the same distance as the Geisha in April.

Dominguez will also ride the horse to beat in the Politely, River Cruise. She has been first or second in six of her seven starts this season, including decisive wins in the Maryland Million Oaks and the Twixt.

Her most dangerous rival is likely to be Merryland Missy, who will be making her stakes debut and racing beyond six furlongs for the first time.

* Maryland's horse population has soared, thanks to the arrival of 17 new stables at Laurel, Pimlico, and the Bowie Training Center. Eight of the new outfits came from Suffolk Downs, including Ron Dandy, John Rigattieri, and Karl Grusmark, three of the top trainers in New England. Suffolk shut down for the winter last month. Dandy has already saddled four winners in 19 starts.

A total of 2,006 horses are stabled at the three Maryland Jockey Club facilities.