03/01/2007 1:00AM

China Doll tough spot for Tiz Elemental


ARCADIA, Calif. - Just two starts into her career, Tiz Elemental seems to handle anything that trainer Carla Gaines tries.

She won her debut on the hillside turf course on Dec. 31 and was beaten a nose in the Sunshine Millions Oaks on Jan. 27, her first start on dirt.

Tiz Elemental will return to turf for Saturday's $90,000 China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The mile race will be her stakes debut against open company and has drawn a strong field.

Romance Is Diane, the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in December, starts from the outside in the field of 11, her first start on turf. The field includes the stakes winners Ces't Mark and Hucking Hot as well as the stakes-placed fillies Courtwood and Mystic Soul.

"I didn't think it would come up as tough as it is," Gaines said.

The China Doll and $90,000 Flower Girl Handicap, run on the hillside turf course, are part of an outstanding program that features three major stakes - the Santa Anita Handicap, Frank Kilroe Mile, and Robert Lewis Stakes.

There are also three maiden special weight races, one allowance race, and two optional claimers. Of the 130 horses entered on the 11-race program, three are eligible to be claimed. The program features a $1 million guaranteed pick six pool.

Tiz Elemental was bred by Warren Williamson, who campaigned her dam, Blending Element, also trained by Gaines. Tiz Elemental is by the California stallion Cee's Tizzy.

"She's got the Irish grass breeding on the bottom and California dirt breeding on the top," Gaines said. "She acts like she'll do whatever you want in a race."

Trainer Doug O'Neill has two starters in the China Doll - Courtwood and the European import Silent Fusaichi.

Courtwood won an allowance race as a heavy favorite on Feb. 1 and was second in the Blue Norther Stakes here on Dec. 31. Silent Fusaichi beat maidens in France last September.

Owned by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, Silent Fusaichi was trained by Manuel Marques when she came to the United States last fall. She was switched to O'Neill after Tommy Town fired Marques as its private trainer earlier this year.

"Manny had done a great job with her," O'Neill said. "She's got the pedigree and the stride."

Bella Banissa seems more relaxed

The speedy Bella Banissa will attempt to win her first stakes in the Flower Girl, which is restricted to fillies and mares who have not won a graded stakes since Jan. 1, 2006.

A winner of 2 of 4 starts on Santa Anita's hillside turf course, Bella Banissa won her last start, leading throughout an allowance race on Feb. 4.

At times, Bella Banissa has been too quick, tearing off to a multi-length lead in a quick pace and fading. Trainer David Hofmans is optimistic that the 5-year-old Bella Banissa will not do that on Saturday.

"She's been maturing a little bit and training a little differently," he said. "She's not as aggressive as in the past."

Bella Banissa has drawn post 12 in a field of 13. The race may lose one member. Trainer Bobby Frankel said that Cantabria is likely to be scratched and campaigned at Hollywood Park this summer.

The field features the Frankel-trained Indian Flare, who won the Kalookan Queen Handicap on dirt here on Dec. 28; Wild Storm, who was third in the Wishing Well Handicap on the hillside on Jan. 28; and Kitty Hawk, who was third in the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap on the hillside turf course on Jan. 1.

Frankel near meet record for wins

Frankel is four wins from breaking Charlie Whittingham's all-time record for most wins during the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. Through Wednesday, after Naughty Rafaela won the first race, Frankel had 866 wins, three shy of tying Whittingham.

For Frankel, 65, the milestone will be appreciated, but far from a life-changing event.

"It will be nice, but I've still got to come to work the next morning," he said.

Naughty Rafaela won for the first time in the United States. She was a group stakes winner in Brazil last year.

Saturday, Frankel has runners in five of the 11 races.

In the first race, run at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course, Frankel has the first-time starter Juliya Space, who is owned by Victor Symoshenko. She was purchased for $1.5 million at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Aside from Indian Flare and Cantabria in the Flower Girl, Frankel's other entrants on Saturday are Racketeer in the second race, an allowance; Three Valleys in the Kilroe Mile; and Porfido in the 11th, an allowance race.

Sinister Minister makes 2007 debut

The second race features the 2007 debut of Sinister Minister, the winner of the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes last April. Sinister Minister has battled minor injuries and illness in recent months. He has not started since finishing fourth as the 9-10 favorite in the Windy Sands Handicap at Del Mar last September.