10/22/2001 12:00AM

Distaff: No shortage of excuses for Starrer


ELMONT, N.Y . - The first time Starrer came to Belmont Park, she went head over heels. For her next acrobatic trick, trainer David Hofmans would like to see her split horses and head straight to the winner's circle following Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Starrer, who most recently finished second to Distaff contender Miss Linda in Keeneland's Spinster Stakes, will be a longshot in the Distaff, the first of eight Breeders' Cup races. But if any horse is overdue for some good luck, it is Starrer. Her performances were compromised in her last three starts, giving Hofmans hope that Starrer can outrun her expected long odds in the Distaff.

"She came out of her last race wanting to do more," Hofmans said Monday morning after Starrer was timed by official clockers going six furlongs in 1:13.26 under Michelle Jensen. Hofmans watched the work with owner George Krikorian, who bought Starrer, a 3-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, as a yearling for just $35,000. "She caught a speed-biased track in her last start, the time before that she was on the lead when she shouldn't have been, and the time before that was a disaster," Hofmans said.

Starrer futilely chased Miss Linda in the Spinster, falling short by 2 1/2 lengths of catching that front-running winner. In the Gazelle Handicap here on Sept. 8, Starrer was entrapped in a crackling pace that also sent to defeat odds-on favorite Fleet Renee, another Distaff runner.

Starrer's first race at Belmont was in the July 21 Coaching Club American Oaks. She was sent to New York from California following a victory in the Princess Stakes at Hollywood Park, and was the 9-10 favorite in the CCA Oaks. She didn't get very far. Starrer stumbled badly leaving the gate, tossing jockey Chris McCarron, who did a half-gainer with a twist, a degree of difficulty of 2.2.

Thirteen fillies and mares were pre-entered in the Distaff last week, and there are not expected to be any defections before post positions are drawn on Wednesday. The Distaff field is Atelier (Edgar Prado riding), Critical Eye (Jorge Chavez), Exogenous (Javier Castellano), Fleet Renee (John Velazquez), Flute (Jerry Bailey), Miss Linda (Richard Migliore), Pompeii (Gary Stevens), Queenie Belle (Brice Blanc), Spain (Victor Espinoza), Starrer (Chris McCarron), Tranquility Lake (Eddie Delahoussaye), Two Item Limit (Alex Solis), and Unbridled Elaine (Pat Day.)

Several had workouts on Monday. Queenie Belle, with Blanc up, drilled six furlongs in 1:14.02 at Belmont Park. Her trainer, Ben Cecil, said he was annoyed that Sprint candidate Delaware Township, who was working a brisk half-mile, jumped in and blew past Queenie Belle. Also at Belmont, working a half-mile each, were longshots Atelier (48.91 seconds) and Two Item Limit (47.84).

Tranquility Lake breezed a half-mile in 47.40 seconds Monday at Santa Anita with Delahoussaye. She was scheduled to fly here on Tuesday, along with a number of horses based in Southern California.

On Sunday, Spain, the Distaff's defending champion, worked five furlongs in 1:00.52 at Belmont. At Aqueduct, Critical Eye was timed in 1:15.69 for six furlongs. And at Churchill Downs, Unbridled Elaine worked five furlongs in 1:01.20, one day after changing trainers, from David Vance to Dallas Stewart.

Unbridled Elaine is scheduled to be flown here on Wednesday, along with Pompeii. Both are based at Churchill Downs. Both Exogenous, who trains at Belmont Park, and Fleet Renee, who is at trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Maryland, were scheduled for workouts on Tuesday.