07/10/2003 11:00PM

Affluent perfectly suited for A Gleam


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Affluent runs Sunday under optimum conditions - seven furlongs on dirt, Azeri nowhere to be found - in the Grade 2, $250,000 A Gleam Handicap, race 4 on the Hollywood Gold Cup card. It is the logical spot, according to Affluent's trainer Ron McAnally.

"We waited specifically for this race because she has run so well at seven furlongs, and we don't have to hook a monster this time - Azeri," McAnally said.

Affluent is a two-time Grade 1 winner at seven furlongs, but after six losses to Azeri, enough is enough. McAnally has another idea. "If Azeri wants to hook Candy Ride, that I don't mind," he said.

Candy Ride has burst forth as the most exciting older horse in California. An unbeaten South American, Candy Ride runs Aug. 24 in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. On Sunday, McAnally's attention is on Gold Cup longshot Piensa Sonando, and A Gleam co-favorite Affluent. Affluent is in a field of six that includes 121-pound highweight You, front-runners Bear Fan and Cee's Elegance, and outsiders Brisquette and Wild Tickle.

Affluent and You have never met. Affluent, 5, has won eight races and more than $1.4 million from 22 starts. You, 4, has won nine races and more than $1.8 million from 19 starts. Both may have lost a step - each earning a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure only once in her last five starts. Affluent, however, has a series of fast recent works.

"Normally she doesn't work really fast in the morning, she's not that type," McAnally said. "She's doing well, and the pace is good."

Bear Fan and Cee's Elegance insure honest fractions, and if the race unfolds as expected, Affluent and jockey Gary Stevens can win from behind. Affluent's three starts at seven furlongs include Grade 1 wins in the Santa Monica Handicap and La Brea Stakes, and a Grade 2 runner-up finish in the Santa Ynez in her second career start. Affluent is owned and bred by Janis Whitham.

The seven-furlong A Gleam distance also favors You, who also has two Grade 1 wins at the distance - the Test and Acorn last year against 3-year-old fillies. Jerry Bailey rides You for trainer Bobby Frankel and owner Edmund Gann.

Bear Fan pressed a wicked pace in the six-furlong Desert Stormer Handicap last out and lost by only three-quarters of a length to Madame Pietra. Madame Pietra was forced to miss the A Gleam because of a foot injury.

The Desert Stormer was Bear Fan's second start following a layoff, and if she shakes loose from Cee's Elegance, she could prove tough to catch under David Flores. Bear Fan has won 4 of 5 starts.