12/17/2006 12:00AM

Either Down or Mystic Soul can spring Starlet upset


PHOENIX - I don't know about you, but I learned my lesson a long time ago. For me, Bobby Frankel is like E. F. Hutton - when he talks, I listen. So the notion of him sending a maiden into Sunday's Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet should not be dismissed as some trainer shooting for the moon.

Last month, some people were smirking at him for entering Badge of Silver in the Breeders' Cup Mile even though the horse had not raced since New Year's Day. Frankel said Badge of Silver was ready. We should have listened. Badge of Silver ran an excellent third in a very strong race.

Frankel now says he's either a fool or a genius for entering the maiden filly Down in the Starlet. He told , "She'll win the Starlet, that's my theory."

He entered her last week in a maiden race but opted to scratch when she drew the rail. Down finished second by a nose in a six-furlong maiden race at Belmont Park in her only start, Oct. 22.

"She can run," said Frankel of Down, a daughter of Mr. Greeley. "It's as simple as that,"

Down has merit not only because she's trained by Frankel and because she's already shown ability, but also because she figures to be a generous price as a maiden in a Grade 1.

Down isn't the only option for those seeking a price. Top trainer Jeff Mullins might have the horse to beat in Mystic Soul, who because of her turf background and wide post might also be a generous price.

Mystic Soul hinted at having ability back East, winning a $75,000 maiden claimer, then jumping right into stakes ranks in the Miss Grillo on turf, finishing second. She was purchased privately after that and is now in Mullins's care. Her first start for him came in the Grade 3 Miesque on the Hollywood turf Nov. 25. She was a game second that day, an effort that looks even better under the circumstances. Not only was it her first start out West and first for new connections, but she broke from post 12. She prompted the pace while wide, moved up to challenge into the lane, took the lead in early stretch, and could not quite fend off the strong invader Valbenny.

We've seen many turf horses thrive when moving to the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park. Just last weekend, the grass horse Saint Stephen won the Grade 3 Native Diver on Cushion Track. Not only is Mullins thinking the surface switch will help - "She loves it," he responded, when asked how she is training over the Cushion Track - but also a better draw certainly will help.

"I think post position played a lot," Mullins said of the Miesque. "I think she needs to be covered up, settle down, and make one run. She was in the clear the whole way. I thought she ran an awesome race."

With the gap from top to bottom likely not that huge in the Starlet, it is a Grade 1 that appears ripe to be won by a spoiler. Either of those two runners can get it done.

Several to remember

It's about time to flip over the calendar to a new year, and here are a few new faces that you might want to tuck away in your memory.

* Trainer Paulo Lobo is excited at the prospect of two horses nearing starts. Detective, a Group 1 winner on turf in Brazil, is close to making his U.S. debut, and Fardinha, a

2-year-old Gone West filly and the first foal out of 2002 3-year-old filly champion Farda Amiga, is about a month away from her first start.

* Trainer Bill Currin reported that California Cup Juvenile winner Freesgood bled while finishing fifth in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in Louisiana last weekend. They'll regroup and point to the upcoming Santa Anita meet.

* Frankel skipped the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup Saturday with English import Notable Guest. The

5-year-old Juddmonte Farms horse was a Group 3 winner for trainer Michael Stoute and has worked steadily for Frankel, who has won a race or two with Juddmonte imports.

* Trainer Eric Guillot said that Baby First, a 3-year-old French colt who shipped in for the Grade 1 Turf Cup but was forced to miss it, is eyeing the Santa Anita meet.

"He got a little sick on us, and we wanted to get him ready for the grass series at Santa Anita," said Guillot.

Baby First was third in the Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris at Longchamp in his last start Oct. 15.

* Stakes winner Rhythm Mad, on the comeback trail, is aiming for the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap on the turf at Santa Anita Dec. 31, according to trainer Richard Mandella. Mandella's patience and success with veterans like this is well documented.