04/22/2008 12:00AM

Two rate slim edge on turf


The first leg of Thursday's late pick three at Aqueduct is definitely a place for horseplayers to spread exotic tickets as much as their budgets allow.

Among the 10 fillies and mares entered in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, a second-level optional $50,000 claimer, seven are returning from layoffs, two are going from a dirt sprint to a grass route, and one has never raced on turf at all.

The race is the seventh on the day's card and, in short, it's a scramble, with a great deal of guesswork involved.

Among those with good grass records, the 4-year-old Nedjma and the 3-year-old Wonderwho'sbest merit strong respect.

Nedjma has returned to Mike Hushion's barn after two unsuccessful races over the winter in Southern California. She faced New York-breds all of last season.

Nedjma has shown the ability to fire fresh. All three of her victories on grass, including one via disqualification, came in her first start following a freshening. Her best races are good enough to win this race.

Wonderwho'sbest ran well in all three of her starts on grass last fall, including a win in a first-level allowance contested over a yielding course. Trainer Bruce Levine is bringing her back to the grass after two attempts over the inner track, both stakes, in which she flashed speed and faded. Wonderwho'sbest is eligible to improve while dropping in class and returning to her preferred surface.

Just a Little Jet and Sensational Love return to New York after displaying good form in Florida.

The 6-year-old Just a Little Jet, the only horse in the field who will run for the $50,000 claiming price, won her last start, but that was four months ago at Calder and there are mixed signals about what to expect from her now. On the plus side, Just a Little Jet won shipping from Florida to Belmont Park last May, defeating $60,000 claimers who were probably a bit tougher than the field she faces Thursday. On the down side, her trainer, Frank Alexander, is only 2 for his last 27 with fillies and mares on turf returning from extended layoffs, including an 0-for-4 record with Just a Little Jet.

Sensational Love cleared her first allowance condition at Gulfstream in January, fared poorly when ambitiously spotted in the Grade 2 Forward Gal on the main track, and was a nonthreatening third when she went back to turf on March 9. Based on trainer Allen Jerkens's 1-for-11 record with female turf runners first time back off a short layoff, she may need a race.