04/18/2007 11:00PM

Distance suits Solva - layoff may not

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ARCADIA, Calif. - With Solva proven at the distance, the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita on Saturday is an ideal fit for her.

"She definitely needs a mile and a quarter, and every bit of it," trainer Ben Cecil said.

But Cecil is concerned how Solva will react to a 10-week layoff. Solva has not started since winning the minor La Zanzara Handicap at 1o1/4 miles on turf on Feb. 1, a race run over the same course and distance as the Grade 2 Santa Barbara.

Cecil had considered the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf for Solva last month, but scrapped the plans when a foot problem surfaced.

"I was going to run her in the Santa Ana, but she busted an abscess out of her foot," he said.

Cecil said that missing that race "doesn't help that much, but I think she's pretty fit."

Solva, 4, won her first stakes in the La Zanzara after finishing fourth in a stakes in England last September.

Solva closed from last in a field of seven to win the La Zanzara and will need a strong kick to win the Santa Barbara. Her two principal rivals - Live Life and Naughty Rafaela - run closer to the front.

Live Life is making her 2007 debut. Last year, she placed in two graded stakes and won two overnight races. The Santa Barbara will be her first start since she finished last of 10 in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine last October.

Naughty Rafaela was a Group 1 winner in Brazil in 2005 and has one victory in five starts in this country. Trained by Bobby Frankel, she finished third in the La Zanzara and returned to win an allowance race at 1 1/4 miles on Feb. 28. The form of that race held up when runner-up Dancing General returned to win the Pro or Con Handicap for statebred fillies and mares earlier this month.

Cecil has entered Flip Flop, a stakes winner in France in 2004 who has placed in two graded stakes since arriving in the United States two years ago. Fourth in the Santa Ana, Flip Flop may be held out of the Santa Barbara for the Wilshire Handicap at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, a course Cecil thinks she may prefer.

"I'm not sure she is as good at Santa Anita," he said. "I think she likes it pretty firmer. The only reason I'd run is it's not as tough as it normally comes up."