09/04/2004 12:00AM

Adoration looks terrific

Arlington Park
Adoration turned back a bid by Tamweel at the top of the stretch and drew off to win the $150,000 Arlington Matron Handicap by two lengths on Saturday at Arlington Park.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Adoration toyed with six opponents Saturday in the , taking the first step toward defending her title in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Adoration was 40-1 when she scored in the 2003 Breeders' Cup, but off Saturday's race, she looks like one of the top fillies in the country. Granted, Adoration got away with a soft opening quarter-mile while making a clear lead, but she came to Chicago from trainer David Hofmans's California base blooming with health, and her two-length win over Tamweel in the $150,000 Matron was the perfect comeback from an 11-week layoff.

Adoration had post 4, and under jockey Victor Espinoza she quickly cleared her pace rivals, strolling through an opening quarter-mile in 24.71 seconds. The half went in 48.66 and six furlongs in 1:12.72 as Tamweel, the clear second choice, joined Adoration on the lead. But with a quick burst turning for home, Adoration left Tamweel in the dust, cruising through the stretch for an easy victory.

"After I looked at the Form, I could see we were the fastest horse in the race," said Hofmans, who trains Adoration for Amerman Racing Stables. "I told Victor to ride her that way, even to ask her a little out of the gate to get her clear. I didn't want anything lapped on her, because she gets so aggressive."

"I felt like I was in control," Espinoza said. "She's really getting good right now."

Adoration is headed back to California, but she probably will leave again for her next start, with the Spinster Stakes Oct. 10 at Keeneland the likely next stop.

Tamweel ran well in defeat, and had little chance to catch the Grade 1-quality winner after Adoration made an easy lead. Tamweel finished well clear of longshot Indy Groove, who was followed by Julie's Prize, Bare Necessities, Allspice, and Hennie's Song.

Adoration, who paid $4.20, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.75.