08/17/2005 11:00PM

Cassidy one small step from Oaks win

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Year by year, trainer Jim Cassidy is getting closer to winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

In 2003, he finished seventh with Katdogawn, who had won the San Clemente Handicap in her previous start. Last year, he was second with Ticker Tape, who had won the Grade 1 American Oaks earlier that summer.

In Saturday's $300,000 Del Mar Oaks, Cassidy's hope is Singhalese, who finished third in the American Oaks on July 3 and returned to win an allowance race here on Aug. 1.

Cassidy likes the Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles on turf for Singhalese and thinks she has an excellent chance to win her first stakes.

"There's no question that she has the ability," Cassidy said. But he admits he will be nervous on Saturday. "I'm going to be a wreck."

The Oaks drew 11 entrants, but only 10 are allowed to start.

is one of several leading contenders. The field also includes Hollywood Park stakes winners Louvain and Three Degrees; Shining Energy, who won the San Clemente Handicap on July 30; and Berbatim, who won the Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in April but missed part of the summer because of a foot injury.

Singhalese had a health scare in June. There was concern about her shins after a fourth-place finish in the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 5, but it turned out to be a false alarm, Cassidy said.

is well-suited to the Del Mar Oaks distance. She won the Honeymoon at 1 1/8 miles, but finished a troubled fifth in the American Oaks, encountering traffic twice in the final three furlongs. Three Degrees was beaten 6 1/2 lengths by the winner, Cesario, but could have finished closer with better luck.

"It didn't seem like there were too many that could have beaten the winner," trainer Paddy Gallagher said. "She had to steady a little on the turn and then had to wait."

Before the Honeymoon, Three Degrees was second in the Senorita at a mile on turf.

"The Honeymoon and the race she got beat were terrific races," Gallagher said.

started in the Honeymoon, but jockey Alex Solis lost his irons at the start and pulled up the filly on the backstretch. She was later found to have severely grabbed a quarter.