11/03/2005 12:00AM

Will Latice be sharp?

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Long Island Handicap highweight Latice showed a strong turn of foot in the Waya in August.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Latice has already shown she can win off a long layoff. Saturday, she will try to prove herself equally adept when running back on short notice.

Latice, the 2004 French Oaks winner, heads a field of seven entered in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 , scheduled for 1 1/2 miles over Aqueduct's turf course. The Long Island tops a 10-race card that also includes the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares on dirt.

On Aug. 12, Latice won the Waya Stakes at Saratoga, her first start in North America and first race in eight months. She displayed a strong turn of foot and had her connections thinking they might have a contender for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. A bleeding episode in an early September workout and the fact Latice was not Breeders' Cup-nominated prompted Sheppard and owner George Strawbridge to come up with a Plan B.

That plan included the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on Oct. 23, a race in which Latice made the lead in midstretch, but was outfinished by Honey Ryder and lost by a half-length.

"I think she got beat fair and square," Sheppard said. "The winner accelerated better than we did. We stayed on resolutely to the finish. We were very satisfied with her effort."

Before the E.P. Taylor, Latice finished third behind Spotlight in the Cicada Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile race in which Latice encountered traffic trouble.

"The distance was too short, the turf was in poor condition, she was blocked all the way around till the stretch, and we weren't trying to give her too hard a race," Sheppard said of the Cicada.

While Sheppard is concerned with running Latice back on 13 days' rest, he noted that she came out of the E.P. Taylor "bucking and squealing."

"She seems as good as ever, it's a relatively small field, there are not too many heavyheads in there, and the turf course seems in very good condition," Sheppard said.

Jose Santos rides Latice, the 121-pound highweight, from post 2.

Spotlight, A Lulu ofa Menifee, and Olaya loom the main threats to Latice. Spotlight beat Latice in the Cicada, but must prove she can get 1 1/2 miles. A Lulu of a Menifee finished second to Latice in the Waya. Olaya, a 3-year-old, makes her North American debut in this spot. Since 2000, the Long Island Handicap has been won three times by a European-based 3-year-old filly in her North American debut.