09/27/2004 11:00PM

'Vagueness' likely favorite going a mile

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Cloakof Vagueness was nominated to the Grade 1 Ruffian on Sept. 19, but her trainer, Phil Hauswald, wanted to give her a little more time between starts and maybe find a softer spot.

Hauswald found that spot in Thursday's third race at Belmont Park, an optional claimer for fillies and mares at a mile on the dirt which offers a purse of $52,000. Three of the runners in the six-horse field - Childress, Fidget, and Artist Johanna - are eligible to be claimed for $75,000.

, the likely favorite, has finished second in her last two starts at this level. On Aug. 4, Cloakof Vagueness was beaten a half-length by Daydreaming, who later finished second in the Grade 1 Gazelle. In Cloakof Vagueness's next start, 21 days later, she was beaten less than a length by Shadow Cast.

"I thought those horses were the ones to beat," Hauswald said. "They are two pretty nice horses."

In her last two starts, Cloakof Vagueness pressed a slow pace, but Hauswald thinks she is better "when she has a target to run at."

Edgar Prado rides Cloakof Vagueness, who is owned by C. Steven Duncker, vice chairman of the New York Racing Association.

Cloakof Vagueness once again may find herself near the early lead, since there are no true speed horses in the field.

, who hasn't run since February 2003, has flashed some speed in her races. Trained by Mark Hennig, Amarelle won back-to-back allowance races at the Gulfstream Park 2003 meet. A subsequent leg injury, which didn't require surgery, sent her to the sidelines. Hennig said Amarelle's owner, Stewart Armstrong, wanted to give the horse ample time to recover.

"He was very patient," Hennig said. "I told him she needed six to nine months, and he said just give her a year. Trying to run a mile is a lot to ask off an extended layoff, but this is a good starting point for her."

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who is having an unbelievable meet and leads the standings with nine winners through Sunday's card, will saddle the entry of Childress and Fidget.

makes her second start back after a summer layoff, and is a winner at the distance and at Belmont.

finished third, four lengths behind Cloakof Vagueness, in her last start on Aug. 25.

Irish Melody, the lone 3-year-old in the field, drops back to an easier spot after two losses in stakes. Artist Johanna completes the field.