04/11/2005 11:00PM

'Dreams' just needs to run a little better

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Patrick Valenzuela seeks to widen his five-win lead in the jockey standings Thursday at Santa Anita, where he is named to ride five horses, including Dreams Come True in the seventh-race feature.

Nine fillies and mares entered the 1 1/8-mile turf race, a two-other-than allowance. It is a race Dreams Come True can win with slight improvement over her U.S. debut. Bobby Frankel trains the 4-year-old Dreams Come True, who won 2 of 7 in France before a promising runner-up finish in her first start in the U.S.

Favored at 6-5, rallied from last and finished two lengths behind the winner. The comment line in her past performances ("tight past three-eighths") reveals she encountered minor traffic trouble, but the reality is she was merely second best. It's good enough. The effort qualifies her for victory on Thursday.

Handicapping a turf race is not difficult, and sometimes is a simple matter of finding a horse that has run well at the level of today's race.

The qualification is simple, yet handicappers are fooled often when sharp runners move up the ladder. That is the case Thursday. Dreams Come True must hold off , who enters the second-level allowance following impressive performances in her only two starts. Trained by John Shirreffs and ridden in both starts by Rene Douglas, D'este won her debut by two lengths, then accomplished the improbable by jumping straight into a first-level allowance and winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

At some point on her way up, D'este will find the competition too tough to beat in her first attempt. That may be the case Thursday. D'este has been visually impressive in both starts, but she faces a much tougher category.

Furthermore, there may be a significant dropper in the race. Mity Dancer placed in four Group 3 races last year in Germany, and that form fits well at this allowance level. Trained by Ed Freeman and ridden Thursday by Kerwin John, Mity Dancer has won 4 of 17 overall.

is also a contender. She finished third in her U.S. debut at one mile and is likely to improve at the longer distance of Thursday's race.

Valenzuela entered the week leading Tyler Baze in the jockey standings, 59-54. Valenzuela will miss only one more day at Santa Anita - he rides Saturday at Oaklawn Park.