06/24/2004 11:00PM

Beverly Hills is Light Jig's for the taking


PHOENIX - The West Coast turf division for fillies and mares held so much promise with the likes of Megahertz, Dimitrova, Musical Chimes, Intercontinental, Island Fashion, and Quero Quero. But Sunday's Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park will include none of them.

Megahertz is being given more time and pointing for Del Mar. Musical Chimes just ran against males, Intercontinental is back east, Island Fashion just ran in Japan and is regrouping, and Quero Quero is eyeing the Grade 1 Milady on dirt instead. Dimitrova, disappointing in two comeback efforts, was taken ill and only recently returned to training.

The absence of these top mares opens the door Sunday for less proven runners to take a swing at 10 furlongs, Grade 1 status, and $200,000.

Moscow Burning, for example, had made her reputation as a consistent runner among California-breds, but she shipped to Belmont for the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay on May 29 and scored a handy win. Perhaps it made one skeptical about the filly and mare turf division back east, but it also indicated Moscow Burning is more than was originally thought. Noches de Rosa just won the Grade 1 Gamely at 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood on May 31, but got some help when favored Megahertz inexplicably fell miles out of contention early, and rallied just a bit too late.

There may be another reason, however, that Bobby Frankel can bide his time with Megahertz and leave Intercontinental back east. He may well have an emerging force in the division in Light Jig. A 4-year-old daughter of Danehill out of the top-class turf mare Nashmeel, Light Jig hinted at significant ability in her native France last year. She ran well in a number of stakes, then was transferred to Frankel last winter and surfaced in the United States with a smart allowance win at a mile at Santa Anita on Feb. 16. She was then sent off the 1-2 favorite in another allowance race on April 14 but her rally fell just shy of catching the tough Alozaina after a brutally troubled trip.

Frankel brought her back at Hollywood at this same 10-furlong trip and she flourished. Light Jig sat near the back of the pack, and then circled the field to win going away. She earned a Beyer of 95, and considering top-class Megahertz hasn't run a whole lot faster (last four Beyers of 94, 100, 100, and 98), that effort shows she may be ready for a step up in class.

It's no shock Light Jig is not only good but comfortable at this trip - Danehill has sired such beasts as champion Banks Hill, and her dam, Nashmeel, was not only a Grade 1 stakes winner in Europe but was second in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita.

Youngsters with high potential

Roman Ruler was one of the worst-kept secrets around. Word was out Bob Baffert had a 2-year-old son of Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus training up a storm. So it was no surprise when Roman Ruler surfaced at Hollywood last weekend and blew the doors off his opposition.

The $500,000 yearling purchase looked tremendous. Not only does he look similar to his powerhouse father, but he's also a half to El Corredor, an enormously talented but fragile runner Baffert trained a few years ago to win the Grade 1 Cigar Mile and two runnings of the Grade 2 Del Mar BC Handicap.

Roman Ruler bided his time early, swooped into contention, and then powered home an easy winner. His brisk 57.27-second five-furlong clocking earned him an 83 Beyer.

"He is amazing," Baffert said of the colt, who is owned by Fog City Stables. "He never took a deep breath. He's even better-looking than his sire, and has a great mind to go with it."

There are other promising 2-year-olds out there, too. Dream Time debuted on June 17 at Belmont. A daughter of Storm Cat out of Fantastic Find, making her a half-sister to the multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Finder's Fee, Dream Time won comfortably by a length. The 91 Beyer is a big thumbs-up, and trainer Shug McGaughey is reportedly eyeing the Grade 2 Schuylerville on July 28, opening day at Saratoga.

Not to be outdone, Todd Pletcher, who has been the East Coast 2-year-old kingpin the past year or so, sent out the filly Bold Outlook at Belmont on June 24 to score a game head win. She's by first-crop sire Chief Seattle, who was so promising a few years ago only to have his career fizzle. Chief Seattle was second to Anees in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Purchased by Godolphin Racing early in his 3-year-old season, he was shipped to Dubai to begin preparations for the 2000 Kentucky Derby. He was withdrawn from the Derby, however, when he came down with a fever. Chief Seattle was then shipped to New York to prepare for the Belmont but again was sidelined when his connections were not encouraged by his training progress.

Roman Ruler, Bold Outlook, a $400,000 yearling sales buy, and Dream Time belong on your horses-to-watch list as things heat up on the 2-year-old front this summer.