09/13/2005 11:00PM

Vaca City Flyer back in tough spot

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Vaca City Flyer, one of the best claims of 2004, returns to action at Bay Meadows on Friday night in a tough spot. She has five rivals in a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs and gives away a conditioning edge to each of them as she makes her first start in seven months.

Claimed by trainer John Martin for $8,000 out of her maiden win at Solano in July 2004, Vaca City Flyer won 5 of her next 6 starts, including a starter allowance race at Santa Anita and an allowance race here last October. The lone loss during that stretch was a third-place finish behind the undefeated Factual Lady and My Charmian, who won her next start.

Talking about Vaca City Flyer last year, Martin credited owner Robert Bone for the claim.

"The owner noticed she ran a good race when she ran second, and told me to look at her," Martin said.

In two starts early this year, Vaca City Flyer finished second in the six-furlong Richmond Handicap and then ran third behind Secret Corsage and Lucky Sabre in her first try at one mile Feb. 12, her last start.

"She just needed a rest," said Colleen Hartford, Martin's assistant, regarding the reason for the layoff.

A 4-year-old filly, hasn't missed a work preparing for her return and has bullet drills of five and six furlongs.

Hartford says Vaca City Flyer is easy to train.

"She knows what her job is," Hartford said. "She never does anything wrong. She's done everything we've wished of her to get ready."

Hartford said the race has come up tough and admits there is always a nagging concern, however small, when a runner returns to action.

"These are definitely fillies who come to win," she said. "She'll definitely have to be sharp and ready to run."

may be Vaca City Flyer's toughest opponent, but she has yet to win in six tries this year while meeting some of the toughest allowance competition in northern California. Apollonesian was second to Somethinaboutlaura at the Bay Meadows Fair following a two-month break and was second to Irish Femme at Pleasanton before that.

There will be plenty of pace in the race to set things up for Apollonesian's stalking style.

drew the rail just inside Quintara, a front-running router who has enough speed to lead in sprints. Even Gone to Party, drawn in the outside post, has flashed speed.