With the Ruffian debacle behind her, Edward P. Evans' Raging Fever drops back to six and a half furlongs in Sunday's Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park, where she'll face her arch rival Shine Again.
Two starts back, Raging Fever failed to hold off Shine Again in the Ballerina Stakes (gr. I), as the Allen Jerkens-trained filly scored by a half-length. They both then tried stretching out in the 1 1/16-mile Ruffian Handicap (gr. I), but neither was around at the finish, so now they go back doing what they do best, and that's sprinting.
"That should help," Raging Fever's trainer Mark Hennig said. "I wouldn't be running her if she wasn't training well. I don't know if she'll be on the lead. It all depends on how the race sets up."
Raging Fever, who is top weight at 120 pounds, will be ridden by John Velazquez, and will be giving two pounds to Shine Again. The filly will again have Jean-Luc Samyn aboard.
The main threat will be the classy filly Nasty Storm from the Dallas Stewart stable who will be ridden by Jose Santos. Others entered in the $150,000 race are Harmony Lodge, Belle Artiste, Harmony Lodge, and Sakya.
Also on Sunday's card in the Forest Hills Handicap (gr. II) at six furlongs. Squirtle Squirt, who is on the verge of being sold, was not entered, leaving an evenly matched field to contest the $250,000 race that served as a steppingstone in 1999 for Artax, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
The sentimental choice in the eight-horse field is the New York-bred 8-year-old warrior Say Florida Sandy, who will be making the 88th start of his career. Already the all-time leading New York-bred money winner, Say Florida Sandy would push his career earnings over the $2 million mark with a victory on Sunday.
Although he disappointed in the Douglas McArthur Handicap for state-breds last time out, he did finish second to leading sprinter Orientate in the A.G. Vanderbilt (gr. I) at Saratoga the race before.
"He proved how good he still is," trainer Victor Cuadra said. "I thought we were kind of taken out of our game having to chase like that. 'Sandy' still finished a few lengths clear of the third horse. He's acting and training like the way he was before the Vanderbilt.
He will run like that on Sunday."
Say Florida Sandy, who will carry 116 pounds, nine pounds less than he carried in the MacArthur, breaks from post 5 under jockey Aaron Gryder.
The most formidable challenge could come from California shipper Avanzado, who is two-for-two since coming to the U.S. from his native Argentina. Trained by Doug O'Neill, the son of Luhuk has won both his starts on the front end.
"He's a big, tall, good-looking chestnut," O'Neill said. "He's not built like a sprinter, but he's really quick. We were real pleased with both races at Del Mar, now it's time to step up and see what he's got."
Avanzado will be ridden by Tyler Baze and will break from post 6.
Also entered in the Forest Hills is True Passion, who has won six of his nine starts this year for Philadelphia Park-based trainer Donald Reeder. Tony Black will be aboard.
"I don't think anyone could have predicted how good this horse would get," said Reeder, who received True Passion earlier this winter. "He's doing really good. I would (have) liked to have a race before the Forest Hills, but he's fresh. Once I gelded him it changed him around. He matured instantly. He started enjoying what he was doing. He's really been a pleasant surprise."
Completing the field will be Esteemed Friend, Sunray Spirit, Paging, Dash For Daylight, and Multiple Choice.$250,000 Forest Hills (gr. II), 6 furlongs, 3 & up
PP HORSE, JOCKEY, WGT.
1 Multiple Choice, John Velazquez, 113
2 Sunray Spirit, Jorge Chavez, 111
3 True Passion, Tony Black, 114
4 Esteemed Friend, Mike Luzzi, 113
5 Say Florida Sandy, Aaron Gryder, 116
6 Avanzado, Tyler Baze, 116
7 Paging, Abdiel Toribio, 111
8 Dash for Daylight, Larry Melancon, 115
Sunray Spirit will race with blinkers.$150,000 Gallant Bloom (gr. II), 6 1/2 furlongs, Fillies & Mares, 3 & up
PP HORSE, JOCKEY, WGT.
1 Raging Fever, John Velazquez, 120
2 Belle Artiste, Jorge Chavez, 114
3 Saskya, Javier Castellano, 110
4 Harmony Lodge, Shaun Bridgmohan, 114
5 Shine Again, Jean-Luc Samyn, 118
6 Nasty Storm, Jose Santos, 114