06/25/2003 11:00PM

Class struggle in Beverly Hills


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - So far, the perceived rivalry between Dublino and Megahertz has a distinctly one-sided aroma. Even Alydar finished in front of Affirmed a couple of times.

Megahertz, on the other hand, is 0 for 3 against Dublino in three high-profile encounters. Granted, she was given the win in the 2002 American Oaks when Dublino was cited for interference. And when Dublino won the subsequent Del Mar Oaks, Megahertz was only a scant nose behind. Clearly, the difference between them is slight.

The best news is that both fillies are still among us, now at age 4, and ready to go at it once again on Saturday in the $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap. Their ongoing presence maintains Southern California's tradition of a deep and satisfying pool of talent among females on the grass. No division, year after year, is more fun to follow.

From the Santa Ana and Santa Barbara handicaps at Santa Anita, through the Gamely and Beverly Hills at Hollywood, and on to the Ramona at Del Mar, top fillies and mares are afforded every chance to prove their worth on turf. At the end of the year, the Yellow Ribbon during the Oak Tree meet and Hollywood's Matriarch surround the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf - wherever it is run - with championship-level implications.

A quick dip into the history of the Beverly Hills reveals the extent to which top-class fillies and mares have permeated the local program. Among the greats who finished no better than second or third have been Typecast, Convenience, The Very One, Kostroma, Jolypha, and Hollywood Wildcat. Flawlessly won it twice. So did Astra, Swingtime, and La Zanzara. Once was impressively enough for Royal Heroine, Estrapade, Manta, Le Cle, Pink Pigeon, and Sangue.

Either Dublino or Megahertz would look good on that list, so let the rivalry resume.

Dublino, named for an Irish pub located on a Grecian isle, is a daughter of Lear Fan, bred in Kentucky and sold at Keeneland, who began her career in France. She returned to America in the spring of 2002 and took up residence with Laura de Seroux, with the American Oaks immediately in mind.

Megahertz, which sounds like a very large rental car, is by the somewhat less fashionable sire Pivotal. She went from England to France and then on to the U.S.A. after Frankel could not refuse her at a bargain price. Unlike Dublino, who was rated among the most promising young French fillies of 2001, Megahertz found herself running with French claimers.

"She kept throwing the [exercise] riders," Frankel said of Megahertz. "Maybe they figured they couldn't train her. But she's been fine here. I put Mitsu on her, and they got along great."

Frankel was referring to Mitsumari Nakaguchi, the young Japanese horseman who has been working his way around the globe for the past few years, riding out mornings for top trainers. He first started handling Megahertz when she entered the Frankel stable in 2001.

"She still can be very tough," said Humberto Ascanio, Frankel's assistant, who has been tending to Megahertz at the California shop while the boss is in New York. "She's not a very big filly, but she must have a big heart."

She needs it to deal with Dublino, whose only misfire in five American starts came on deep ground at the 2002 Breeders' Cup in Chicago. Dublino's cheering section extends to central Kentucky, where she was bred and raised at Arthur Hancock's Stone Farm.

"Emmanuel - Laura's husband - he bought her for $180,000, and I thought that was a good price," Hancock said.

It should come as no surprise that the yearling version of Dublino would catch the eye of Emmanuel de Seroux. Dublino's dam, Tuscoga, was a daughter of Theatrical bred by the late Allen Paulson and acquired by Hancock in a dispersal of Paulson mares. De Seroux, a leading international bloodstock agent, was Paulson's close adviser and continues in that capacity for Michael Paulson, who has carried on his father's stable, most notably represented by Azeri.

"Noble Times, the dam of Tuscoga, was a highweighted filly in New Zealand," Hancock said. "One of the reasons I liked the mare was that you get hybrid vigor. You don't have all of this inbreeding, like people always seem to be writing and talking about."

It should be noted that 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, like Dublino, also comes from a New Zealand female family. Adding to the family lore is Tuscoga's sister, Duda, who won the 1995 Matriarch over the same course and distance as the Beverly Hills.

"There you go," Hancock said. "Daddy always believed in it" - he was referring to the legendary breeder Arthur "Bull" Hancock - "and I do, too. To get the big horse, the real heavy-hitter, you need to go for hybrid vigor."

Tuscoga is still at Stone Farm, trying to produce another Dublino. She had bad luck with an Unbridled filly in 2000. ("She took one breath and died," Hancock recalled. "A real heartbreaker.") But Tuscoga does have a Pulpit 2-year-old colt in training and a Menifee colt by her side.

"Now she's back in foal to Lear Fan," Hancock added. "As they say around here, I believe in going back to the well where the water's good."