10/13/2004 11:00PM

Distance suits fast-closing Shalini

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Might the third time be the charm for Shalini in the $100,000 California Cup Distance Handicap? She was an unlucky, narrow loser of the race in 2002, then did not fire her best shot last year. That loss began a six-race losing streak that Shalini brings into Saturday's first race at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

There is reason to believe that Shalini is primed for an upset. She finished furiously behind a slow pace in the Solana Beach Handicap at Del Mar in her last start, and now stretches out to a distance that might enhance her chances but mitigate against the chances of the Solana Beach winner, Tucked Away.

Tucked Away led Test the Waters, Ran for the Dough, and Shalini across the wire in a blanket finish in the Solana Beach on Sept. 5. The race shape hindered Shalini. The one-mile race had a half-mile fraction of 48.40 seconds, and six furlongs in 1:12.20. Shalini made up five lengths the final quarter-mile, but when the leaders came home in 22.60 seconds, she could not get up in time.

Shalini gets an extra quarter-mile with which to work on Saturday. She also drew post 2 in the field of seven in the 1 1/4-mile turf race, so she should get a good, ground-saving trip. But she must get out of a year-long rut.

"The last race was a little short for her," said Craig Dollase, who trains Shalini. "A mile and a quarter should suit her. We've been pointing her to this race since then. A mile and an eighth is probably her best distance, but a mile and a quarter is better than a mile. She's an in-and-out kind of mare, but she's rounding into form now."

Tucked Away captured the Solana Beach, but her turn of foot always has seemed more effective at a mile or shorter. It will be up to jockey Gary Stevens to try holding her up long enough to make her run as effective at 10 furlongs. Tucked Away has never been better than fifth in three previous starts on the Santa Anita turf.

There is little speed in the race, which makes Ran for the Dough a tempting alternative. Trouble is, she had a similar situation in the Solana Beach, and could not last, finishing third in a close finish.

Test the Waters, who was second in the Solana Beach as the lukewarm 5-2 favorite, is the most consistent of this bunch and might be the slight favorite. She has won twice and was a narrow loser in the Solana Beach in her last three starts. This will be her first race beyond 1 1/8 miles, but she is 3 for 3 beyond a mile.

Drought Breaker has won three times in four starts since being claimed in May by trainer Bill Spawr. She had a wide trip in her lone grass race last year.

Almond Blossom has won twice in her last three starts, including against allowance company on the Hollywood Park turf in July.

Scrofa was a winner against first-level allowance runners at Fairplex in her first start since being claimed by trainer Paul Aguirre. She upset claiming fillies at Del Mar in a race restricted to 3-year-olds.

The field

California Cup Distance Handicap
Purse: $100,000; 1 1/4 mile (turf)

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1Test the WatersV. Espinoza1175-2
2ShaliniD. Flores1197-2
3ScrofaO. Figueroa1125-1
4Ran for the DoughD. Sorenson1136-1
5Drought BreakerC. Nakatani1158-1
6Tucked AwayG. Stevens1194-1
7Almost BlossomJ. Court1158-1

* Odds by Michael Hammersly