06/21/2001 11:00PM

Beverly Hills not a two-horse race


PHOENIX - If you would have said a week and a half ago that Tiger Woods would not win the U.S. Open, surely everyone would assume someone like David Duval, Phil Mickelson, or Sergio Garcia would have won.

Obviously, this year the tournament showed why you can't always go by what's on paper.

Most handicappers will feel confident that either Astra or Happyanunoit will be victorious in Sunday's Grade 1 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park. On paper, these two seem to have every edge in the 1 1/4-mile turf event.

Two other fillies, however, have every right to be this race's version of Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks: Kalypso Katie and High Walden.

Kalypso Katie, trained by Neil Drysdale, fits the picture of a dominant turf filly. With a placing last year Group 1 in the Epsom Oaks, and a Group 3 win on her ledger, she was given a heady 117 rating by Timeform. Only four 3-year-old fillies were rated higher in 2000. Sent to the U.S. by owner Michael Tabor, she debuted for Drysdale in an allowance race at Hollywood May 2, and stormed home the easiest of winners.

She came back in the Grade 1 Gamely against Happyanunoit and Tranquility Lake, for the past couple years the best turf fillies out West along with Tout Charmant and Tuzla. She was given plenty of respect, going off at just 7-2.

However, the course was watered and she never seemed comfortable over it, finishing fifth, beaten six lengths by Happyanunoit. Drysdale later reported she also strained a knee.

However, her presence in the Beverly Hills for the normally very conservative Drysdale says a lot; she must be doing well.

More positives. The Gamely was at just 1 1/8 miles, but the Beverly Hills gives her another furlong with which to work, and that certainly helps her cause. With Astra around 6-5 and Happyanunoit around 7-5, the price will be there, probably in the vicinity of 6-1.

High Walden came to the U.S. after a strong 3-year-old season with a Grade 3-placing and a 111 rating from Timeform. She exploded on the American scene last November for trainer Bobby Frankel, winning the Matiara over the Hollywood course in smart style. But then things got a little fuzzy. She lost a race she probably should have won at Santa Anita. She then tried dirt in the Grade 2 La Canada - bad idea. She ran off early and completely fell apart.

But Frankel wasn't dismayed. He gave her a few weeks and wheeled her back in the Grade 2 Santa Ana at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf course. Despite trouble, she closed with a flourish to finish second, beaten a head by the solid Beautiful Noise. It's entirely possible that with clear sailing she could have won.

Brought back in the Gamely, she again had a strange trip. She somehow ended up on the lead, and had no answer to Happyanunoit, Tranquility Lake, and Beautiful Noise in the lane, finishing fourth beaten by three.

Her best races have come when she has been allowed to gather herself and make one big run. Considering that her owner, Prince Khaled Abdullah of Juddmonte Farm, is one of Frankel's main clients she certainly won't be sacrificed making the running to set things up for Frankel's Happyanunoit. Besides, Jig is already in the race as the likely pacesetter.

That means High Walden can do what she does best: sit back, gather momentum turning for home and blast away. And like Kalypso Katie, the price figures to be generous- probably in the 6-1 to 8-1 range.

But consider this warning: Pointing out the assets of these two fine fillies is not a knock on Astra and Happyanunoit, who may well be the two best turf fillies in the country at this distance, particularly with Perfect Sting hurt and Tout Charmant just beginning to work her way back.

Astra was devastating in her return - at 10 furlongs no less - in Santa Anita's Santa Barbara, and trainer Simon Bray, who said he made a big mistake last fall by not giving her enough time between starts, insists he won't make that mistake again.

And Happyanunoit appears rejuvenated. She looked like her old self, storming home to win the Gamely after a good-but-not-great 2000 campaign. Frankel said his mare had constant foot problems last year, but that she's finally over those ailments and as sound and good as ever.

That's bad news for the rest of the division. But it's splitting hairs between those two, and they are no bargain pricewise.

With Kalypso Katie and High Walden there's no question of their quality, improvement should be forthcoming, and you're assured of a nice number at the windows.