Full Field Entered in Long Island Handicap

The final open turf stake of the year for fillies and mares in New York usually draws a large field and Saturday's 45th running of the grade II, $150,000 Long Island Handicap is no exception. A full field of 13, plus two for the main track only, has been entered.

When trying to figure out a full-field turf race, one must try to find a legitimate longshot and that filly could be Lady Dora, a four-year-old who finished a close fifth in her last start, the Athenia during Breeders' Cup Week at Belmont.

Only beaten a 1 ½ lengths in the grade III Athenia, Lady Dora did not have the easiest of trips despite a ground-saving ride from Aaron Gryder. She was rated in behind a :25 1/5 opening quarter-mile and had to await racing room around the far turn. In tight down inside through the stretch, the Erdenheim Farm runner had a rival come over on her late, forcing her to stumble slightly.

"She had a little trouble in the Athenia," trainer Michael Matz said. "But I thought she ran well enough."

The Athenia was Lady Dora's second race back off a five-month layoff. Nearly three weeks earlier, she was closing and got beat a neck in a $58,000 allowance at The Meadowlands.

"She chipped an ankle in April and that's why she hadn't been out for a while over the summer," Matz said. "I'm running her back a little quick. She likes about four or five weeks between races, but she's fresh and she seemed to come out of the Athenia well."

Lady Dora showed she can run with top-class horses earlier in the year when she was third to Spook Express in the Honey Fox at Gulfstream, beaten a half length. Spook Express ran second to Banks Hill in the premiere race for females on the grass, the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

While Matz is not worried about the daughter of Lord At War out of Doradoradora classing up to the rest of the field, Lady Dora will be trying the 1 ½-mile distance of the Long Island for the first time.

"She's never had a chance to run a mile and three-eighths or a mile and a half," Matz said. "I always thought the longer distances would be a good spot for her, judging from her running style. This gives us an opportunity to see if she can handle the distance before she goes down to Florida."

In a race where shippers outnumber New York-based horses, trainer Roger Attfield will send Sweetest Thing down from Canada.

A winner of 4-of-5 starts on Woodbine turf, the three-year-old daughter of Candy Stripes out of Escape Reality powerfully won the Breeders' Stakes against males in August in the final leg of Canada's Triple Crown.

"She's won all her races at Woodbine impressively," Attfield said. "The only race she lost up here, she bled in." Sweetest Thing shipped to Keeneland for her last start, the grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup and did not run well at all, finishing a well-beaten ninth. Rank from the start, Sweetest Thing was clearly not a happy filly at Keeneland, blowing the first turn while trailing. "I think she was confused at Keeneland," said Attfield, who hopes the filly's Keeneland experience will help her on a similar Aqueduct course. "She had only run on the big course at Woodbine and when she went to Keeneland, it was kind of like a bullring for her."

One of the more consistent members of the Long Island field is Gerald Robins' Queue, not worse than second in her last four starts. Coming off two close runner-up finishes at The Meadowlands, Queue had responded well for jockey Jose Espinoza. The two teamed up for a win in the New Castle at Delaware, but trainer Vincent Blengs does not think that was the filly's best race of the year.

"I think her most impressive race this year was when she finished second to Starine in an allowance at Saratoga," Blengs said. "She likes to run from the back of the pack and, as a result, has to get the right trip. The more speed in there, the better it is for her."

Queue was defeated by Cruise Along in her last race at The Meadowlands, and will try to get revenge on that rival who also runs back in the Long Island.

Moonlady, a German invader, won this race last year and there are two European horses looking for an American victory as their flat racing season winds to an end also.

Moon Queen may very well be the horse to beat in the Long Island. From seven starts this year, the three-year-old filly has three wins and four seconds. She recorded her first group stakes win in her last start, the Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp last month. Earlier in the year, she finished second to Volga, who was second in the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine and fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Affiance, a minor stakes winner in Ireland this year, also ships across the Atlantic Ocean for the Long Island.

Bowl Of Emeralds and Krisada, two New York-based horses that ran second and third in the Dowager at Keeneland last time return to their home ground and will try to keep the purse money in New York.

Trainer Christophe Clement will send out Summer Solstice who has not raced since February 24th in a non-winners of two "other than" allowance she narrowly scored in.

Should the race come off the turf, Edward Evans's Summer Colony rates a huge chance, although she will be heavily favored. She has won her last three starts by 50 lengths in maiden and allowance company.