01/09/2003 12:00AM

Drysdale has Magic Mission primed for upset in Gorgonio


ARCADIA, Calif. - When the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, Neil Drysdale was all too happy to bid good riddance to 2002. A year that dawned with the promise of Bella Bellucci and Sunday Break unfolded with great disappointment for the Hall of Fame trainer. "Do you know anybody, other than Bobby Frankel, who had a good year last year?" Drysdale mused the other morning.

The year 2003 has started encouragingly for Drysdale. He won Wednesday's Blue Norther Stakes with Major Idea, and on Saturday at Santa Anita he sends out two mares, including the rapidly improving Magic Mission, in the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 grass race for older females.

Magic Mission appears primed to upset the race's likely favorite, Tates Creek. Because Magic Mission has yet to win a stakes race in this country, she carries eight fewer pounds than Tates Creek (113-121). But she is coming off the best performance of her career, a third-place finish behind proven Grade 1 performers Dress to Thrill and Golden Apples in Hollywood Park's Matriarch Stakes. "She appears to be an improving filly," Drysdale said.

Magic Mission is an attractive bay filly with a huge blaze covering most of her face. "She's by Machiavellian, and they seem to improve with age," Drysdale said. "She's fairly lightly raced. She's a bit more focused."

Drysdale also is represented in the race by Double Cat, who was assigned the same weight as Magic Mission, even though Magic Mission appears a superior mare. "I'd be delighted if she hit the board," Drysdale said of Double Cat.

Double Cat finished fifth most recently in Hollywood Park's Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap, her only try in a graded stakes. Double Cat is going to be retired this spring and bred to A.P. Indy.

Frankel also has two runners in the race, Tates Creek and Megahertz.

Tates Creek beat Magic Mission by 1 3/4 lengths in the Las Palmas Handicap at this track's Oak Tree meeting on Nov. 3. The weight spread that day was seven pounds. Tates Creek has not raced since then. She is seeking her third straight victory and fifth in her last six starts.

Megahertz, who thrived against 3-year-olds last year - when she won Hollywood Park's American Oaks and Honeymoon Handicap - is making her first start against older rivals. She has not raced since finishing sixth in Keeneland's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Oct. 12 on a course that was not to her liking. Megahertz, who is 3 for 3 at Santa Anita, prefers firm ground.

Alozaina was a close fourth in the Dahlia in her last start.

Crazy Ensign finished only a neck behind Magic Mission in the Las Palmas.