08/23/2002 11:00PM

European lands in soft spot in U.S. debut

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DEL MAR, Calif. - After running in group stakes in England and Germany earlier this summer, Atarama should find the field in a $60,000 allowance race at Del Mar on Monday to be an easier group.

A victory by Atarama would give Kristin Mulhall, 20, her first winner as a trainer.

Kristin Mulhall is the daughter of Richard Mulhall, the racing manager of The Thoroughbred Corporation, the stable that owns Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem.

Atarama is owned by The Thoroughbred Corp. She was one of six European horses sent to Kristin Mulhall in mid-summer.

In Europe, the 3-year-old Atarama had one win in seven starts, a maiden race at minor Redcar Racecourse in England. She made her last four starts in stakes, including third-place finishes in stakes at Newmarket and Newbury.

This summer, she was well-beaten in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot and a Group 3 in Germany on July 5.

"She was a nervous filly, but she's coming along real well," Mulhall said. "She might need one, but I think she'll run all right."

Atarama has had four workouts at Del Mar this month, including one on the turf course.

Atarama will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, and faces five other 3-year-old fillies in the 1 1/16-mile turf race. Three of her opponents have won on grass.

One exception is probable pacesetter The Parties Over, who is making her turf debut. The Parties Over was third in the Fleet Treat Stakes for California-breds on July 28, but a disappointing eighth in an allowance race on Aug. 11.

Aside from Atarama, the main contenders include Nicole's Pursuit and Wild and Icy. Nicole's Pursuit was second in the Fleet Treat Stakes on July 28 and third in an allowance race on turf on Aug. 12. A closer, Nicole's Pursuit won an allowance race on turf for California-bred fillies and mares at Hollywood Park on July 7.

Wild and Icy won a turf race for $50,000 claimers on July 25, her second win in 11 starts and first victory on turf.

Neeshanha and Royal Turka complete the field. Neeshanha won a maiden race on turf at Hollywood Park on May 19, but was fifth against a tough field of winners on June 16. I'm the Business, who was third in that field, has returned to win twice.

Royal Turka makes her first start for trainer Scott Hansen after racing at Fair Grounds last winter. She is winless in three starts on turf.

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