01/31/2002 12:00AM

Touch Love - ooh, scary


The reappearance of long-absent Touch Love has apparently scared off most of the competition in Saturday's $60,000 Jameela Stakes at Laurel Park.

Only 11 3-year-old fillies were nominated for the seven-furlong race, which is restricted to Maryland-breds. Just five opponents will line up to face the undefeated Touch Love.

After beginning her career winning a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race at Delaware Park, Touch Love was sent to New York, where she won the Astoria at Belmont and the Grade 2 Schuylerville at Saratoga. She came out of the Schuylerville with a shin problem, however, and hasn't raced since then.

Trainer Tony Dutrow has given Touch Love a string of long, slow, stamina-building workouts for her first race in more than six months. She will break from the rail with Ramon Dominguez.

Bronze Abe appears to be the most formidable threat to Touch Love's unbeaten streak. Trained by Bud Delp, Bronze Abe won a similar statebred stakes at seven furlongs in mid-November, drawing off by 5 3/4 lengths. In her only start since then, Bronze Abe disappointed as the odds-on favorite in her two-turn debut, finishing a distant third in a five-horse field. The return to seven furlongs and a recent bullet five-furlong workout are encouraging signs.

Phyxius is the only other horse with any stakes experience, but she tends to finish second and third more than she wins. Phyxius was runner-up in both the Holly Stakes at The Meadowlands and the Marshua at Laurel. In her only previous race at seven furlongs, Phyxius was soundly beaten by Bronze Abe.

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