10/20/2005 11:00PM

Cerin has his fingers crossed


ARCADIA, Calif. - Though trainer Bob Baffert will start two juvenile fillies Sunday in the $75,000 Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita, he acknowledges that quantity does not usurp quality.

"I would feel better if Cotton Bay was in there," Baffert said, referring to the filly whose striking debut on Wednesday earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

Even without that rocket, Baffert enters the six-furlong Anoakia with a fighting chance. Babe Hall and Naughtylittlehottie enter off modest maiden victories, and with some improvement either can win the Anoakia.

A field of nine entered the Anoakia, in which unbeaten Calder shipper Bettarun Fast could have been a standout except for two minor setbacks. Bettarun Fast was purchased privately and aimed to the Anoakia following a dominating turf stakes win Sept. 3 at Calder that was worth an 83 Beyer, but a temperature caused her to miss some training after she arrived, and a key work was postponed last weekend because of a wet track.

, 3 for 3, will race Sunday for owners Patricia and Stephen Fitzpatrick and trainer Vladimir Cerin, who admits uncertainty regarding her level of fitness.

"I would like to be sure that she's fit, instead of just hoping," Cerin said.

Martin Pedroza rides Bettarun Fast, who figures to be positioned just off the pace that is likely to be set by one of the Baffert fillies.

won a three-way photo on Sept. 28 while earning a modest 77 Beyer. It was her third career start, and Baffert said, "She acts like she wants to go longer."

Babe Hall was sired by El Corredor, a Grade 1 winner for Baffert in 2000.

Baffert also trained the sire of .

"She looks a lot like Flame Thrower, and she really changed over the summer," Baffert said. "When she first got in, she wasn't much to look at, and I was going to run her for $32,000. But when I got back from Del Mar, I couldn't believe how much she had changed."

Baffert ran her for an $80,000 tag on Oct. 8, and she wired the field with a 72 Beyer. The Anoakia speed-figure par is 88, a figure that none of the entrants has approached on dirt.

The field also includes closer , winner of a low-rated maiden race at Del Mar; Make Mine Minnie, who goes route to sprint and will be finishing; and Dancin Olivia, whose last-start win in the Bustles and Bows Stakes at Fairplex was largely the result of a troubled trip by the runner-up.