10/28/2004 11:00PM

Beware of Hoh Buzzard

Four-Footed Fotos
Hoh Buzzard (2), beating Aud in last year's Mrs. Revere, should improve in her second start off a long layoff.

PHOENIX - With the big girls such as Light Jig, Musical Chimes, Megahertz, Katdogawn, and Moscow Burning attempting to pull down bigger game in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, there's a "Buzzard" circling overhead for Sunday's Grade 3 Las Palmas at Santa Anita.

Hoh Buzzard was given an impossible task a month ago. A stakes winner in England and at Churchill Downs in November 2003, Hoh Buzzard hadn't raced since the Dec. 20 Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood Park, when she finished fifth. Despite that inactivity and some missed training time due to some early rains, Hoh Buzzard was pitched in with top-caliber horses in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon.

Trainer Ben Cecil knew he was putting his filly up against it, but he also knew he needed to get her back on track. To her credit, Hoh Buzzard finished sixth of 10. That meant there were some quality fillies and mares behind her. And if nothing else, it showed she was back and feeling good, and ready to take a step forward in a race such as Sunday's Las Palmas.

"I missed one work with her before the Yellow Ribbon due to the rain, so I expect her to improve," said Cecil of Hoh Buzzard, a 4-year-old Irish-bred owned by Gary Tanaka, currently best known as owner of Pico Central, Rakti, and Sarafan.

The Yellow Ribbon, won by Light Jig, was at 1 1/4 miles on turf, while the Las Palmas is an eighth of a mile shorter at 1 1/8 miles. Cecil didn't believe the distance was as much the issue as the layoff.

"I think she's fine going a mile and a quarter, but it was a lot to ask of her first time back since December of last year," Cecil said. "If you watch the Yellow Ribbon, she was wide the whole way, got bumped pretty badly turning for home, and still only got beat a length and a half for second. I was pretty pleased with the way she ran, considering."

He should be. It's not as if this spot comes up easy, but it's sure a lot easier, particularly with so many of the top-shelf fillies and mares opting for Texas or other engagements.

Hoh Buzzard won three in a row in England a year and a half ago, and then was a strong second in a Group 3 stakes in France. She then shipped to the U.S. and had a brutal trip when favored in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington. She was freshened and resurfaced with a game win in Churchill's Grade 2 Mrs. Revere. She beat Aud that day, the same filly who had beaten her in the Pucker Up. Then came a good fifth from an impossible post (No. 10) after a pace duel in the Dahlia at Hollywood. She seemed on her way to a productive U.S. career.

Setbacks kept Hoh Buzzard away for 10 long months, but as with last year she seems poised to do some good things during the fall and winter.

There are some other good horses in the Las Palmas. Good Student was a big allowance winner at Del Mar in early September. She then tried the Yellow Ribbon, showing tactical speed and finishing fourth, ahead of Hoh Buzzard. Good Student showed big-time ability in her native Argentina, so this Ron McAnally trainee isn't to be taken lightly.

As you would expect with any graded turf stakes there's a Bobby Frankel influence. Theater R.N. makes her stakes debut. A daughter of champion Theatrical, Theater R.N. was dazzling a year ago, winning her first two outings in super fashion before finishing a dull fifth in an optional claimer at Santa Anita on Jan. 8. She didn't run for months, so apparently something went awry. Frankel got her back on track, however, and she resurfaced opening week at Del Mar with another strong victory. If Frankel can keep her in one piece, Theater R.N. could be a player.

Toss in Miss Loren, winner of the Grade 2 Clement L. Hirsch and second by just a half-length in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret (both on the dirt), and a Grade 1 winner on the turf in her native Argentina, and you can see that Hoh Buzzard better be back and then some. But Hoh Buzzard's appeal is a combination of proven form, the notion she's ready to move forward after the Yellow Ribbon, and the chance she will be somewhat ignored at the windows.