07/28/2004 12:00AM

Will real Last Song show up?


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Crank up the spin machine to high, but the raw fact of the matter is this: Last Song did not try very hard in her last race.

That, at least, was the opinion of Team Carl Nafzger after Last Song finished third as the even-money favorite in a third-level allowance race July 9 at Arlington Park.

"We might have to try blinkers on her," Ian Wilkes, Nafzger's assistant, said after Last Song's race.

The blinkers are on, and Last Song is back, one of 10 3-year-old fillies entered in Friday's $50,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes. The race is carded for one mile on dirt, and for those skeptical of the equipment change, there are plenty of alternatives to Last Song.

It's just that none of them won a Grade 2 earlier this year, nor did they run third in the Grade 1 Ashland. Last Song did, which is what made her last run here so perplexing. Freshened after a dull try in the Kentucky Oaks, Last Song never really got involved in her allowance comebacker. She passed a couple of horses, but was losing ground the entire stretch to a sharp winner named Tamweel.

A couple of days afterward, Wilkes said it seemed apparent that Last Song was not really putting forth maximum effort when she raced. Blinkers, he said, could help her to focus, to get her mind back on running. Last Song returned to her base at the Skylight Training Center in Kentucky, and she worked five furlongs there July 25 in 1:02. How the equipment change affects her performance will become apparent Friday - but bettors will not be offered an enticing price to find out.

The combination of Last Song's back class and the presence of leading rider Rene Douglas figure to make Last Song favored again in the Sweetest Chance. The alternatives include a filly named Catboat, who has won four in a row at Mountaineer, and Ghostly Gate, who is in from Canterbury for trainer Hugh Robertson. Ghostly Gate is more appealing, and comes off two turf races and onto dirt, probably her preferred racing surface.

Twilight Gallop starts for trainer Tom Amoss, and has won her last two starts - one at Churchill, the last at Ellis Park - by a combined 11 lengths. But the fact that Twilight Gallop won at odds of 2-5 both times suggests she was not beating much.

In fact, the locally based Miss Moses might have the best chance of dealing Last Song another defeat. She exits a game victory in an entry-level allowance race - the best effort of a four-start career.