08/09/2001 12:00AM

Well-traveled Caressing seeks rebound

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The race has had more incarnations than a Hindu deity. On Saturday, it will be known as the Singapore Plate, and it is the next stop on what has been a not-so-magical countrywide tour for last year's champion 2-year-old filly, Caressing.

Since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall, Caressing has started three times, winning the La Troienne Stakes on her home track, Churchill Downs, but finishing unplaced and badly beaten in her last two races, the Acorn at Belmont Park and the Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park. The well-traveled Caressing has run at six tracks in eight starts, including Arlington, where she finished second in the Arlington-Washington Lassie last fall.

Owner Carl Pollard and trainer Dave Vance hope the Singapore Plate, a $125,000 Grade 3 at nine furlongs, is the right spot to revitalize Caressing.

This is the first running of the Singapore Plate and the latest twist in this race's long history. Launched in 1930 as the Arlington Oaks, it was scrapped after three years, only returning in 1980. It has been known three times as the Arlington Oaks, its name last year, but also as the Arlington Heights Oaks. This year Arlington forged an agreement to host sister races with the Singapore Turf Club, which holds the Arlington Trophy Race two weeks from now.

That is of little concern to Caressing and her connections, who have been disappointed with her season thus far. Vance said nothing is physically compromising his filly, and that Caressing became intimidated when she was trapped along the inside in the Delaware Oaks, where she wound up seventh as the 7-5 favorite. Caressing returned to work six furlongs in 1:13.40 seconds on Aug. 6 at Churchill. Rene Douglas rides for the first time.

Three months ago, Scoop would have been a solid second choice to Caressing, but Scoop's form also has tailed off. Winner of the $150,000 National Jockey Club Oaks this spring for owner Jim Tafel and trainer Gene Cilio, Scoop lost a June 14 allowance here as the odds-on favorite, but has been freshened and is eligible to bounce back.

Dancin Emi is the probable pacesetter and a dangerous speed threat from post 1. Dancin Emi brought a three-for-three record into the July 5 Iowa Oaks, but lost her poise before going to the gate, her first time under the lights, and left her race in the paddock. By Summer Squall, Dancin Emi, trained locally by Janice Ely, is bred to excel at a distance and should be more mentally prepared for this start.

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