11/13/2003 12:00AM

Adoration in Matriarch - or Bayakoa

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The decision by Hollywood Park to shorten the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes to one mile beginning this year was met with mixed reviews, but it may help to land a prize catch in Adoration, the upset winner of last month's Breeders' Cup Distaff.

David Hofmans, the trainer of Adoration, said Thursday that he was considering running Adoration in the $500,000 Matriarch on Nov. 30. Adoration was scheduled to work Friday at Santa Anita, where she is based, then was going to be sent by van to Hollywood Park on Saturday to prepare for a work on the turf course here next Thursday.

"Then we'll go from there," Hofmans said. "She's already won on the grass over there. We know she can handle the grass."

Adoration won the Senorita Stakes in May 2002 at age 3. That is her lone win in four turf starts, but her record is deceptive. Adoration had a brutal trip last December in Santa Anita's Monrovia Handicap on the hillside turf course. She has won five times in 14 starts overall.

Adoration returned from a lengthy layoff this summer at Del Mar. The Distaff marked only her third start since returning. "She's fresh," Hofmans said. "She's really, really doing well. She's doing super."

If Hofmans decides to bypass the Matriarch, he said Adoration would instead run in the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap on dirt on Dec. 7.

Powerful rainstorm has little impact

A freak, powerful rainstorm that wreaked havoc in large parts of the Los Angeles area Wednesday night largely missed Hollywood Park, even though it did bring hail and torrential flooding to parts of South Central Los Angeles, a few miles east of the racetrack.

There were scattered power outages at the track, including the track kitchen, but the main track was in excellent shape for training Thursday morning, trainers said.

"I rode my pony on it, and he felt so good he wanted to run off," said Alex Hassinger, who oversees trainer Eoin Harty's string at Hollywood. "This track is better with a little water."

Three races scheduled for the grass Thursday afternoon remained on the turf, though turf works were canceled Thursday morning. "That would be sort of excessive," said Martin Panza, Hollywood Park's racing secretary.

There were five late scratches on the program, leaving a total of 51 runners on the eight-race card.

Sarafan wins Japan Cup prep

The decision to leave the turf races on the rain-softened course was welcomed by trainer Neil Drysdale, who was eager to get a prep race into Sarafan before sending him to Tokyo for the Japan Cup on Nov. 30.

In Thursday's third race, Sarafan ($3) relaxed behind a slow pace, then came through along the rail for an easy victory against four overmatched rivals. He was timed in 1:49.22 for 1 1/8 miles on a course rated good.

"He doesn't like soft ground," Drysdale said. "But that's too bad. It's nice to get a race into him."

Victor Espinoza rode Sarafan, and took the first three races on the card. Espinoza won twice on Tuesday's opening-day card, giving him wins in 5 of the first 11 races of the meet.

Candy Ride recovered from colic

Candy Ride, who has not raced since winning the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August, was treated for a mild bout with colic on Wednesday at Santa Anita, but was reported to be doing fine on Thursday by his trainer, Ron McAnally.

"He had a belly ache, so we sent him to the clinic," McAnally said.

McAnally said this setback would slightly delay Candy Ride's return.

"We had planned on starting him back in serious training on December 1, but this might set him back a little," McAnally said.

House of Fortune in Starlet next?

McAnally is considering running House of Fortune, the California Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 21 - but he is going to wait several more weeks before deciding whether to run.

"It depends on the competition and how she's doing," McAnally said.

The major prep for the Starlet is Sunday's Moccasin Stakes, which is expected to have a small field, headed by Victory U. S. A., the third-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Special Rate wins turf debut

Special Rate, a half-brother to stakes winners Tates Creek and Sightseek, was a winner of his turf debut on Tuesday's opening-day card, when he nosed out Royal Place in the $72,870 Bien Bien Stakes for 3-year-olds. White Buck was third.

Special Rate, like Tates Creek and Sightseek, was bred and is owned by the Juddmonte Farms of Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and is trained by Bobby Frankel.

Jose Valdivia Jr. rode Special Rate, who was timed in 1:34.72 for the one-mile race on firm turf. As the favorite, he paid $6.20.

* Buddy Gil, who won the Santa Anita Derby but has not raced since the Kentucky Derby, worked three furlongs in 36.60 seconds on a fast main track at Santa Anita on Thursday as he begins his comeback.

* Congaree, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, worked six furlongs in 1:11.80 at Santa Anita in preparation for the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.