05/29/2004 12:00AM

Eyes of Texas upon Kela


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Trainer Mike Mitchell is having one of the best years of his career, and it will only get sweeter Monday if Kela completes a sweep of this meet's two richest races in the Grade 3, $300,000 .

The race is one of seven stakes to be run at Lone Star on Monday. Worth a cumulative $1 million, the program is called Lone Star Million Day. Other major stakes on the card include the Grade 3, $200,000 WinStar Distaff, which drew 12 fillies and mares led by Katdogawn, Bedanken and Janeian.

Kela shipped to Lone Star from his Southern California base last month and won the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile. With a win in the Lone Star Park Handicap, he would be the second horse to sweep the track's two major dirt stakes for older horses. Dixie Dot Com won both races in 2001.

Kela will take on five others as the 121-pound highweight Monday. HIs rivals are Spanish Empire, Sonic West, Maysville Slew, Saint Buddy, and Yessirgeneralsir.

Kela, who flew to Texas on Saturday morning, is making only his fourth start for Mitchell, whose client, Jay Manoogian, purchased the horse privately last summer. Kela was given some time off following the sale, and in only his third start for his new connections ran a career race, earning a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his 5 1/4-length romp in the Texas Mile.

"He came back good," said Mitchell. "He's going into this race the same way."

Mitchell is the leading trainer at Hollywood Park with 17 wins from 44 starters. He also ranks as one of the highest win-percentage trainers in the nation, at 28 percent through Friday.

David Nuesch, who was aboard Kela in the Texas Mile, has the return call Monday.

Threats include Saint Buddy, who was third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March; Sonic West, who has won stakes in his last two starts since adding blinkers; and Spanish Empire.

In his last start, Spanish Empire finished seventh in the $100,000 Alysheba at Churchill Downs, but a sloppy surface worked against the horse that day, said his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

Before that race, Spanish Empire won the Grade 3 Fifth Season and the $60,000 Louisiana Handicap. He will be ridden by Shane Sellers.

- There is a special mid-card daily double Monday linking the WinStar Distaff and the Lone Star Handicap, which are races 8 and 9.