06/30/2005 11:00PM

Andujar looking like 'monster'

Benoit & Associates
Andujar, here romping in the Milady, will make her first start at 1 1/8 miles on dirt in the Vanity.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Do it again.

When Andujar won the Grade 2 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap last month, she joined the list of the nation's top older fillies and mares.

But how far can she progress? Sunday's $300,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park can offer clues.

The Vanity will be Andujar's first start at 1 1/8 miles on dirt, and her first appearance in a Grade 1. She was so impressive in winning the Milady by seven lengths that track management has made the Vanity the third race, moving it out of the pick six with the expectation that Andujar will be a heavy favorite.

Trained by Doug O'Neill for Paul Reddam and Mark Schlesinger, Andujar drew post 8 in the nine-horse field. She is likely to be on or near the lead, as she was in the Milady as well as an allowance race that she won on April 28. Following that race, Reddam bought Andujar.

Those races have made O'Neill an admirer.

"She looks like the Loch Ness monster," he said. "She has the long, lean Thoroughbred neck to her. She's so smooth, she covers a lot of ground."

may be tested on the front by the 3-year-old Splendid Blended and the Mexican invader Casty.

, who is making her first start against older fillies and mares, is trying to become the first 3-year-old to win the Vanity since It's in the Air in 1979.

Trained by Neil Drysdale, Splendid Blended won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes last December but has made only one start this year, finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park last month. In that race, she set a torrid pace and hung on to finish fourth, two lengths behind Round Pond.

, 4, is an unknown commodity. A winner of 14 of 17 races in Mexico City and San Juan, Puerto Rico, she has displayed the ability to lead or stalk the pace.

O'Neill is convinced that Andujar is not a one-dimensional front-runner.

"I don't think she needs the front end," O'Neill said. "She's so relaxed in the morning. The few times that I've worked her, I've let her start behind lesser horses, and she seemed very kind with that.

"She's got the speed and the stamina combo that can be so deadly. She can run you off your feet, and it's hard to come and get her."

That is sort of old news to John Shirreffs, who trains Hollywood Story for George Krikorian. Hollywood Story was the favorite in the Milady and seemed well-placed to challenge Andujar on the final turn. She never got closer than 3 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole.

Shirreffs wonders if he may be taking on a champion in Andujar.

"If Andujar is as good as she might be, like an Azeri or something, it doesn't matter what we do. We can't beat her," he said.

"If someone looks at her for a half-mile, that could change the finish. It's pretty simple."

The field

Vanity Handicap
Purse: $300,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

1Splendid BlendedJ. Bailey1139-5
2Healthy AddictionJ. Court11230-1
3Santa CandidaO. Berrio11250-1
4Hollywood StoryV. Espinoza1205-2
5I Can YodeleT. Baze11050-1
6Island FashionP. Valenzuela1156-1
7CastyD. Flores11512-1
8AndujarC. Nakatani1212-1
9Tucked AwayA. Solis11230-1

* Odds by Art Gropper