02/18/2006 12:00AM

Deep field will test Ticker Tape

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Benoit Photo
Ticker Tape, shown winning the Tuzla Handicap in her last start, will face eight other graded or group winners in Monday's Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - was a finalist for the 2004 Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding turf female. She has won more than $1.4 million and scored a hard-fought win in her last start, the Tuzla Handicap in January.

Those credentials would seemingly make her a strong favorite in Monday's $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita. But Ticker Tape has to share top billing with an outstanding field of fillies and mares in the one-mile turf race.

The Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap drew a field of 13 - nine graded or group stakes winners and four other stakes winners.

"Do they give you extra money for races like that?" asked Jim Cassidy, who trains Ticker Tape.

Sorry, Jim. The first prize remains $90,000, but the winner will be recognized as the leading female turf miler on a circuit known for producing top candidates in that division.

Ticker Tape, a stalker, breaks from post 7 in a field that includes a clear pacesetter in Awesome Lady, who has run mostly on the main track in recent starts. Elusive Diva, third in this race last year, and a specialist in sprints on the hillside course, will also be near the front.

Those two will have a difficult task of leading throughout on a course that has been friendly to stalkers and closers, but Elusive Diva's trainer, Mark Glatt, is willing to try. He is hopeful that weekend rain will soften the course and make it easier for a front-runner.

"If it's a little soggy, I think speed holds better," he said.

Ticker Tape will have plenty of company off the pace. The winner of the American Oaks and Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in 2004, Ticker Tape ended a nine-race losing streak in the one-mile Tuzla, scoring by a half-length on Jan. 26.

Cassidy said Ticker Tape's post favors her stalking style, and will allow jockey Kent Desormeaux to use a strategy that plays to the mare's strength.

"I don't want to be in the one hole or the 13 hole because you have to do things you don't want to do," Cassidy said.

Even if Ticker Tape gets a perfect trip, she will need to use her extended kick to hold off several closers.

"Hopefully, the late runners will take a day off," Cassidy said.

The main threats to Ticker Tape are Shining Energy, who won the San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar last summer; the promising European imports Beautyandthe-beast, Mirabilis, and Toupie; and Silver Cup and Royal Copenhagen, the first and third-place finishers of the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap here on Jan. 8.

drew post 13, which will not help her stalking style considering the quick run to the first turn.

Beautyandthebeast and Mirabilis have started at this meeting: Beautyandthebeast won an allowance race on Dec. 29, while Mirabilis was fourth as the even-money favorite on Jan. 19. Both won important races in Europe last year.

Toupie is making her U.S. debut. Trained by Beau Greely, Toupie, 4, was a group stakes winner in France in 2004 and was second in the French 1000 Guineas last May in Paris.

is seeking to rebound following a seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes on Jan. 15, the only start of her career on the main track. The winner of the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap last June, she later finished second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

"She can be effective at a mile or a mile and an eighth," trainer Paddy Gallagher said.

Three Degrees is unbeaten in two starts on this course - a maiden race and an optional claimer last spring. Gallagher knows his filly will be tested on Monday.

"The race has got a lot of depth," Gallagher said. "There's a whole lot of contenders."