06/28/2005 11:00PM

Andujar looks ready for star turn in Vanity

Benoit & Associates
Andujar, under Corey Nakatani, romps in the Grade 2 Milady BC, her first race for new owners.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Opinions can change rapidly in horse racing.

After trainer Doug O'Neill watched Andujar, at the time trained by Julio Canani, dust four rivals by 10 1/2 lengths in an entry-level allowance race on April 28, he thought to himself, "Who did she beat?"

A few weeks later, when O'Neill and owner Paul Reddam were approached about buying Andujar, O'Neill looked at the race a different way. "It was more like how well she did it," O'Neill said.

That opinion has not changed in the last six weeks.

In her first start for Reddam and O'Neill, Andujar scored a seven-length win in the Grade 2 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 4. On Sunday she runs in the $300,000 Vanity Handicap, the main track championship race for fillies and mares at the Hollywood Park meeting, and if she wins the Vanity her value will soar, as will her standing in the nation's distaff division.

Not bad for a filly who arrived from France last winter as a maiden after five starts.

Andujar's victory in the Milady reigns as the most impressive performance of the meeting. Sent off at 7-1 in a field of seven, she took the lead from the start, set a quick pace, and pulled away in the final three furlongs.

"When she won, she was galloping," Reddam said. "I was really, really surprised for the Milady that she was being counted as an outsider, reading the various opinions. She looked like she fit in there to me."

Andujar beat a strong field in the Milady. The runner-up was Hollywood Story, a three-time graded stakes winner. Two-time Grade 1 winner Star Parade, who finished third, was attempting to defend her title.

"You wonder how she would fit against those horses," O'Neill recalled. "She acted like it wasn't that big of a deal. We didn't think she'd finish that fast, not after being hounded on the backstretch."

In the days following the race, O'Neill found himself accepting congratulations from strangers.

"A lot of times you get caught up in your own world," O'Neill said. "I've had so many people, people that I didn't even know, say they were impressed by it. It was definitely one of the better moments of my racing career."

The victory made Andujar the topweight for the Grade 1 Vanity, run over 1 1/8 miles. She will carry 121 pounds, a four-pound increase from the 117 she carried in the Milady.

Andujar's first four starts, all in France, were on grass, and she seemed destined for a career on turf when she arrived in the U.S.

She made her first three U.S. starts for Darpat S.L. Stable and Canani. In her U.S. debut on March 9, Andujar finished second in a maiden race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita. She has not lost since.

Andujar won a maiden race on the hillside course by four lengths on April 7, three weeks before her eye-catching allowance win on the main track. A 4-year-old Quiet American filly, she has won 3 of 9 starts and $197,693. In France, Andujar's best finish was a third in an allowance race over a mile on turf.

After the April 28 allowance victory, Francoise Dupuis, a bloodstock agent and the wife of trainer Jean Pierre-Dupuis, approached O'Neill, inquiring whether Reddam was interested in buying Andujar.

"There was a lot of back and forth," Reddam said of the sale negotiations.

Reddam purchased Andujar for approximately $750,000 in early May, and later sold a 10 percent interest to Mark Schlesinger.

Reddam has been actively buying race-ready horses for the last several seasons, and has increased his acquisitions in the last year. Aside from Andujar, his recent purchases include Cream Donut Keith, Sharp Lisa, Snack, Wilko, and Winendynme.

Wilko is the most prominent of his horses, having won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October at Lone Star Park in his first start for Reddam. Trained by Craig Dollase, Wilko finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and is sidelined with an ankle injury. He is expected to return next winter.

Winendyneme finished second in the Beverly Hills Handicap last weekend.

Not everything has gone Reddam's way. Snack, trained by O'Neill, was euthanized after suffering an injury in the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita in March.

"Paul is very game," O'Neill said. "His thing is you will have some horses that you will buy that don't work out. If one of three, or one of five do work out, you'll be okay. He wants to play at that higher end."

Reddam said he prefers to buy race-ready horses rather than yearlings.

"Buying a yearling is a complete crapshoot," he said. "Even when you have the best opinions in the game, there is a lot of failure there. It's very simple. There are only so many Grade 1 races and with X thousand of horses being sold, most won't get there. In the yearling game, paying top dollar doesn't guarantee anything.

"The ideal horse for me is one that has shown some ability, and if this and this and this happen, they could be a top horse."

Sunday's Vanity is a key race for Andujar. A victory would move Andujar closer to the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont Park in October. Reddam, for one, is expecting another explosive performance Sunday.

"All indications are she's going to run a dynamite race," Reddam said.

It will be an opinion shared by many.