03/24/2006 1:00AM

Argentina set for coming-out party

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Benoit & Associates
Ticker Tape (left), a millionaire, has not won a graded stakes since 2004.

ARCADIA, Calif. - While durable racemare Ticker Tape has powered through a four-race winter campaign, lightly raced and top-class filly Argentina has been carefully managed and, until Sunday, well hidden.

meet Sunday at Santa Anita in the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares that also includes another hard-working filly. Silver Cup already has won two graded stakes at the meet, and enters as the 118-pound topweight.

Nine entered the $150,000 stakes in which Silver Cup, Ticker Tape, and Argentina are the principals. Finally, top-class import Argentina comes out of hiding.

Racing in France, Argentina won 2 of 6 and finished second in two Group 1's. Trainer Bobby Frankel entered her in a Feb. 3 allowance that would have been her U.S. debut, but she came down with a temperature, scratched, and did not work for a week and a half. No problem. After all, it is a long year.

Next on the agenda was a March 17 allowance where Argentina would have been favored.

"I wanted to get another work in her," Frankel said, and scratched her again. The trainer is satisfied he made the right call.

"She's training really well, and she looks fantastic," Frankel said.

But how good is she?

"I just have to go off her form in Europe," he said.

Her form is outstanding. Beaten only three lengths by Divine Proportions last spring, Argentina is qualified to win the Santa Ana first start back under Alex Solis.

Ticker Tape, meanwhile, is hoping for a better trip than she got Feb. 20 in the Buena Vista, where she was fanned six wide into the lane.

"We lost more ground than we were beaten," trainer Jim Cassidy said.

won the Buena Vista; Ticker Tape finished 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth. Ticker Tape is making her fifth start in less than four months.

"But she can handle it," Cassidy said. "Others you have to give a month and a half, but she likes it."

Ticker Tape has won eight races and more than $1.4 million from 28 starts and is seeking her first graded stakes since the Queen Elizabeth Cup in October 2004. Kent Desormeaux rides Ticker Tape.

Silver Cup won the Grade 2 San Gorgonio and Buena Vista, and has won 7 of 12 overall. Victor Espinoza rides for trainer Patrick Biancone.

Others include Royal Copenhagen, , Halo Ola, and Beautyandthebeast. Co-topweight Moscow Burning did not enter; she will run next weekend in northern California.