04/22/2004 11:00PM

Dimitrova makes 2004 debut


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Dimitrova was an Irish raider last year when she won the American Oaks at Hollywood and the Flower Bowl Handicap at Belmont.

But for the last six months she has been based in California, preparing for a 4-year-old campaign that starts in Sunday's $100,000 Wilshire Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The Wilshire is her first start for trainer Neil Drysdale. She was previously trained by Dermot Weld, and was transferred to Drysdale following a 12th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita last October.

In the Grade 3 Wilshire, run over a mile on turf, Dimitrova will carry top weight of 122 pounds and will go favored. She proved she likes this course in the American Oaks here last July.

was scheduled to start in the Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita last weekend but missed the race because of illness.

"She coughed for a few days," Drysdale said. "This is a suitable backup."

The American Oaks and Flower Bowl were run over 1 1/4 miles on turf, but Dimitrova has been effective at shorter distances. She was a close third in the Irish 1000 Guineas over a mile last May.

Despite her impressive credentials, Dimitrova has not scared away the competition. The Wilshire has an outstanding field of nine, eight of whom won stakes in the last year.

The top contenders include , the defending champion; Fun House, winner of the Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita in February; Quero Quero, winner of the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap last June; and Katdogawn, winner of two graded stakes in the last four months.

Quero Quero has made one start this year, winning an allowance race at Santa Anita despite traffic problems.

"Turning for home, she was blocked twice," her trainer, Paulo Lobo, said. "I think she's going to run big. She ran well in her first race."

Quero Quero may be close to the pace, which could be important since several fillies and mares have shown a quick turn of foot.

Dublino won the Wilshire with such a move last year. In her only start this year, she was second in an allowance race at Santa Anita.

"I love her going a mile," trainer Laura de Seroux said. "I think it's probably her best trip. I think Hollywood is her track, more so than Santa Anita. When she's sound and fresh, Dublino is as good as any turf filly out there."