08/23/2001 11:00PM

Debutante a preview of the Breeders' Cup


DEL MAR, Calif. - The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies will not be run Sunday at Del Mar.

Or will it?

Three of the seven who entered the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante hold genuine Breeders' Cup aspirations, including Tempera. Runaway winner of two straight, she heads a strong field that includes sharp maiden winner Habibti, late-runner Who Loves Aleyna, front-runner Lil Miss Hollywood, and three others.

Beyond raw ability, Tempera gained further advantage when posts were drawn for the seven-furlong Debutante. Second choice Habibti (whose name was changed from Habibaty after her debut) is buried on the rail, while Tempera drew post 3, outside Lil Miss Hollywood. Barring the unforseen, the Debutante should unfold similarly to the Aug. 4 Sorrento Stakes, which Tempera won by nine lengths with a pressing trip.

Trainer Eoin Harty said Tempera "has trained fantastic" and he expects another peak effort by the daughter of A.P. Indy. "If I had to pick one horse Sunday to bet $2 on, it would be Tempera," Harty said.

Of course, the stakes are considerably higher than $2 for Harty and owner Godolphin Racing. A win in the Grade 1 Debutante would cement Tempera's value as a broodmare, and her status as a deserving Breeders' Cup favorite.

The $250,000 Debutante will not be a walkover, however. Habibti, who crushed her foes in her debut July 29, acts the part of a Grade 1 filly. Trainer Bob Baffert said Habibti "is a class filly. She's good . . . she's Breeders' Cup good."

A daughter of Tabasco Cat owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., Habibti unleashed a mid-race burst in her debut, earning a 95 Beyer that matches Tempera's Sorrento figure. Habibti's win was validated when Imperial Gesture - whom Habibti beat by more than 10 lengths - romped Friday at Saratoga. Also, ninth-place finisher Wild and Icy returned to win, while runner-up Ayanna was favored in race 5 Saturday at Del Mar.

Baffert believes Habibti will benefit from the additonal distance of the Debutante, after having won her debut at 5 1/2 furlongs. "The longer the better for her," he said.

It will be up to jockey Victor Espinoza to find a trip from the rail, 3-for-19 this meet in seven-furlong races.

The Debutante sleeper is Who Loves Aleyna, third in the Grade 3 Landaluce July 7. "I think she's a two-turn filly," trainer Bruce Headley said. "I'm running her in [sprints] to get some [Breeders' Cup] points. What we're really trying to do is get to the Breeders' Cup."

Respectful, Que Bonita, an Roaring Blaze complete the field.