08/07/2002 11:00PM

'Buffy' the Sorrento hot one

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Buffythecenterfold is the filly everyone will have their eyes on in Saturday's $150,000 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar.

Attempting to win her second stakes, and push her unbeaten record to three victories, Buffythecenterfold will be favored in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes, for 2-year-old fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Much has changed in the 2-year-old filly division since Buffythecenterfold pulled a mild upset in the Grade 3 Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 4. She has a new owner in Frank Stronach, who purchased a 70 percent interest on Tuesday from owner Allen Brian. She has a growing list of challengers, facing recent maiden winners Voodoo's Sister, Indy Groove, and Dutchess Eben as well as Tricks Her, a maiden who finished second in the Landaluce Stakes, and Magic Smoke, who won the Cinderella Stakes in June.

Buffythecenterfold led through her first two races but is not speed-crazy, trainer Mel Stute insisted. Stute said that she can be rated if the pace is too hot, but she is likely to be close to the pace from her draw in post 3.

"I think her ideal is lying about third," Stute said. "I don't believe she has to have the lead."

In the Landaluce, jockey Matt Garcia had Buffythecenterfold on the lead through quick fractions and won by a length over Tricks Her. Buffythecenterfold is trying to become the first filly since Career Collection to win the Landaluce and Sorrento.

Stute worked Buffythecenterfold over seven furlongs on July 28 with the reasoning "I wanted her to be a little extra fit." She has since worked five furlongs.

Buffythecenterfold could face early pressure from Voodoo's Sister, who pulled an upset at 23-1 in a five-furlong maiden race on July 7. She led throughout that day, winning by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths in 57.90 seconds. Voodoo's Sister will not be near that price in the Sorrento, but must show further improvement to be a factor, trainer Nick Canani said.

"She'll have to step up, because the other filly has more experience," Canani said. "When she won the other day, I didn't have her cranked up to run. I couldn't believe she went off at 23-1."

Canani was happy with Voodoo's Sister draw in post 8, which will give jockey Jose Valdivia plenty of options.

"I think she'll like being outside," Canani said. "It's kind of an unknown whether they need the lead because you're running against 2-year-olds that all made the lead."

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