07/30/2007 11:00PM

Velvet Moonlite may try to take back


DEL MAR, Calif. - A key scratch from the featured second race on Thursday at Del Mar figures to alter the pace of the race, and may force handicappers to reconsider their options.

Fleetheart, who would have been one of the leading contenders in the race, is going to be scratched, according to her trainer, Vladimir Cerin.

"She's a little sore in her shoulder muscles, so she's going to come out," Cerin said Tuesday morning. "You have to do what's best for the horse."

Fleetheart figured to vie for the early lead with Velvet Moonlite, but the scratch likely leaves Velvet Moonlite as the potential unchallenged front-runner against just three rivals. But with many trainers and riders believing the tiring nature of Polytrack makes speed a liability, just how this race unfolds early could be a complete guess.

Five were entered in the day's second race, a third-level allowance at a flat mile for older fillies and mares. Fleetheart drew post 1, with Velvet Moonlite on the outside. Velvet Moonlite will carry 124 pounds, spotting from two to four pounds to her rivals.

Velvet Moonlite has made her last three starts on turf. She has 2 wins in 5 starts on main tracks, but in her lone race on a synthetic surface, she was fourth of seven after setting the pace in a first-level allowance last fall on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park.

Cliff Sise, the trainer of Velvet Moonlite, said his filly has "breezed real well down here."

But the way the track has played, Sise wants Velvet Moonlite to not be so eager early under David Flores.

"I've got to get him to take her back a little," Sise said.

If those tactics are used, the pace will be dawdling, and might play to the advantage of Great Opinions, who has won twice in four starts on synthetic surfaces. Great Opinions is taking a class drop after finding the Grade 2 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood a bit too steep.

Dona Amelia will be stretching back out after finishing well for fourth in the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap going seven furlongs at Hollywood Park. In her only other start on a synthetic surface, she was a good third in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap last fall at Hollywood Park.

Hey Hey Renee will be the race longshot. She was last of five in the Valkyr Handicap for California-breds on June 24, her first start since October. In two starts on this circuit after arriving from Edmonton, Alberta, she has finished in front of one horse.