08/31/2004 12:00AM

Elloluv drops to wake up


DEL MAR, Calif. - It has been nearly 17 months since Elloluv last won a race. Since then, she has raced six times, either in Grade 1 or Grade 2 stakes races, without success. This year, she has finished sixth in both of her starts since returning from a lengthy layoff.

Sometimes in order to take a step forward, you first have to take a step back. That is the strategy trainer Craig Dollase is employing with Elloluv on Thursday at Del Mar. Elloluv, a two-time Grade 1 stakes winner, will drop in class for the restricted, $75,000 Piedra Foundation Handicap in an attempt to re-ignite her career.

was one of the best of her generation at 2, when she captured the Hollywood Starlet, and at 3, when she won the Ashland Stakes, finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks, and was second in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. This year has been a disappointment, though Dollase believes Elloluv has been compromised in her two starts.

In the A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 2, "she grabbed a quarter and didn't get a lot out of the race," Dollase said Tuesday morning. And then in the Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 8, "she got hit by a dirt clod in her eye."

"Hopefully this race can get her back on track," Dollase said. "We're putting the blinkers on, and the last two works have been very strong for her. She's never been the best of work horses. Hopefully this will be a confidence-builder, and we can go on to bigger and better things."

The one-mile Piedra Foundation certainly proved its worth one year ago. It was won by Adoration, who two months later scored an upset victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

In Thursday's race, Elloluv carries top weight of 122 pounds. She is reunited with jockey Corey Nakatani, who was aboard for her four starts preceding the Hirsch. Seven horses are entered against Elloluv, who figures to be a heavy favorite despite her subpar recent form.

"We're hoping for a form reversal," Dollase said. "She needs to really step forward."

is stretching out around two turns after a series of good efforts in sprints. She chased the red-hot Dream of Summer in her last two starts, but before that was a winner of the Desert Stormer Handicap at Hollywood Park.

was claimed for $80,000 out of her last race by trainer Bill Spawr. Most of her races have been on turf. She is winless in seven starts on dirt, but is sharp, having finished first or second in her last eight races.