08/09/2003 12:00AM

Bare Necessities best


HENDERSON, Ky. - Bare Necessities, confidently handled by Rene Douglas, powered to a 5 1/4-length victory as the highweight and heavy favorite Saturday in the 22nd running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Gardenia Handicap, the annual highlight of the Ellis Park meet.

After settling about eight lengths off the early pace in the 1 1/8-mile race, Bare Necessities moved into contention in the final turn before Douglas cut her loose. Down the stretch, she took three cracks of the whip while pulling away to win in 1:50.09 over a fast track. She returned $2.80 to win.

Desert Gold, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, finished second, another 2 3/4 lengths before So Much More. Lead Story was just another head back in fourth, while the other five fillies and mares finished far behind.

Bare Necessities spotted her rivals four to 10 pounds while carrying 119. Bred and owned by Iron County Farms and based at Santa Anita with veteran trainer Wally Dollase, Bare Necessities now has won seven of 16 lifetime starts, with the $120,000 winner's share lifting her career bankroll to $715,281.

Dollase, who watched the race from California while his daughter, Aimee, saddled Bare Necessities, said earlier in the week that he planned on one more race, most likely on her home circuit, before she runs in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

Before an ontrack crowd estimated at 4,400, longshot Peaceful Place set the pace in fractions of 22.91, 46.54 and 1:11.78 before So Much More took a narrow lead with a half-mile remaining. At the quarter pole, as Desert Gold moved to challenge So Much More, Bare Necessities swept past them both from the outside en route to her easy win.

The $2 exacta paid $16.60 and the $2 trifecta paid $54.40.