03/15/2006 1:00AM

Cambiocorsa queen of the hill


ARCADIA, Calif. - The course for 6 1/2-furlong turf sprints at Santa Anita careens downhill, makes a soft right-hand turn a quarter-mile from the start, and forces runners to cross the main dirt track before the sprint to the wire. It is a unique, popular course, which track owner Frank Stronach came to realize after first saying the course would be razed for development when he purchased Santa Anita in 1998.

In years past, the likes of Champagne Bid, El Cielo, and Irish O'Brien made their reputations as course specialists. Irish O'Brien was so good on it that Santa Anita named a stakes race after her, and it will be run for the 12th time, as always, on St. Patrick's Day, Friday.

It would be both symbolic and appropriate should capture the $125,000 Irish O'Brien, in which she will be a heavy favorite. Like Irish O'Brien, Cambiocorsa is a California-bred filly who has become the queen of the hill. She has raced over it five times, including three tries already this meet, and has won every time. She is winless in five other starts, ranging from dirt sprints to turf routes.

"She takes it very well," Jon Court, the regular rider for Cambiocorsa, said Wednesday afternoon. "She has so much experience over it now that she does it like clockwork. You don't want to use her early over it. You want to settle her to some degree. She's quick, but she can carry her speed. It's just a matter of guiding her down there and saving something for the stretch."

Court said many horses find the course a challenge. "Both the right-hand turn, and then crossing the dirt, that change of surface," Court said. "Some of them get to the dirt and they take a launch, and you lose six or seven lengths."

Cambiocorsa has won four straight races, dating back to last fall's Oak Tree meeting. She won against open company in the Wishing Well Handicap on Jan. 29 before crushing a third-level allowance field last time out Feb. 15. In that race, she earned the highest Beyer Speed Figure of her career, a 103.

Court has had great success with the owners of Cambiocorsa, Lee and Ty Leatherman. Their richest victory came in the Japan Cup Dirt with Fleetstreet Dancer.

Doug O'Neill, who trains Cambiocorsa, also has entered . Though winless since December 2004, she was third in the Tuzla Handicap on Jan. 26.

comes off a powerful victory at Bay Meadows, her sixth win in 10 starts.