03/04/2004 12:00AM

Fillies looking stronger than the boys

Email

The California-bred 3-year-old filly division has such depth this year that three of them are considered candidates for the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on April 30.

House of Fortune, Silent Sighs, and Yearly Report have proven themselves on the national level - unlike the California-bred colts, a group that lacks a well-regarded candidate for the Kentucky Derby.

"This year is very unusual," said Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, who trains House of Fortune.

But McAnally admits he may not have the strongest candidate.

He nominates as the division leader Yearly Report, who won her first stakes in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita on Jan. 19 for Golden Eagle Farm and trainer Bob Baffert.

"I think Baffert has the best of the three fillies," McAnally said.

House of Fortune and Silent Sighs are in the midst of outstanding campaigns as well.

House of Fortune won the California Cup Juvenile Fillies last November in a thrilling stretch duel against Silent Sighs. House of Fortune later finished third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes.

Silent Sighs rebounded from her loss in the Cal Cup to win two consecutive restricted stakes - the fillies division of the California Breeders' Champion Stakes on Dec. 27 and the Sunshine Millions Oaks for Cal-breds and Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24.

House of Fortune is bound for Saturday's $75,000 California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields, while Silent Sighs is being pointed for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13. Plans for Yearly Report are uncertain because of a recent illness, Baffert said.

As impressive as the trio have been in recent months, they have the comfort of not facing Tizdubai, the winner of the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar last summer. Owned by Darley Racing, Tizdubai was injured at Del Mar and has spent the winter in Dubai.

Whether the three California-based fillies make it to the Kentucky Oaks largely depends on how they run between now and early April.

House of Fortune has done something that the others have not - won over 1 1/16 miles, although there was only a half-length separating her and Silent Sighs in the California Cup.

Two fillies - Silent Sighs and Yearly Report - race for their breeders; House of Fortune was purchased for $125,000 at the 2003 Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Silent Sighs is owned by Marty and Pam Wygod and is trained by Julio Canani. The filly is from the first crop by Benchmark and is out of Quiet Romance, a Bertrando mare who did not race.

Canani was most impressed with Silent Sighs's victory in the Sunshine Millions Oaks, when she was trapped behind horses to midstretch before finding running room. She quickly accelerated and outfinished Wacky Patty by a neck.

"What a nightmare," Canani said of the race. "When that other filly [faded], the other one opened up two lengths. I thought she wouldn't catch her. She only ran 200 yards. The race didn't take anything out of her.

"She's a nice filly," he said. "Before I ran her, I said, 'I want to run in the [maiden race for] open fillies.' "

Canani did not get his wish that day, Oct. 12, but started Silent Sighs against California-breds a day later. She broke slowly in her debut but rallied to win by six lengths.

"She's very immature," Canani said. "In the mornings she changes leads, but in the races she doesn't."

House of Fortune was bred by John Treasure, who works as an outrider in the mornings at Hollywood Park. She was sold for $40,000 at the 2002 California Thoroughbred Breeders Association yearling sale at Del Mar, and then sold again at Barretts.

McAnally bought her on behalf of Arnold Zetcher. House of Fortune caught McAnally's eye after he noticed that Baffert was inspecting the filly before the sale.

"Baffert was looking at her, and that prompted me to look at her," he said.

McAnally cites House of Fortune's conformation, breeding, and disposition as assets. "She worked like a pro - nothing bothered her," he said. "Everything about a horse that I looked for, she had."

House of Fortune is out of So Fortunate, who did not start. She is the dam's top foal.

McAnally had a simple explanation for traveling to Golden Gate Fields this weekend. "I can miss some of the monsters down here," he said. "Eventually, we'll have to handle them. Hopefully, everything will go well up there."

Yearly Report races for Betty Mabee's Golden Eagle Farm. The filly is by General Meeting - who was campaigned by Mabee and her late husband, John - and is out of a female line bred by the Mabees.

Yearly Report's dam, Fiscal Year, won the 1997 Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar, her only stakes win in seven starts. Fiscal Year is out of Fiscal Gold, a Slew o' Gold mare who did not start.

Yearly Report was a game second to Silent Sighs in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes before scoring by a convincing four lengths in the Santa Ynez.

After that race, she was briefly ill, Baffert said, but she has since rebounded.

"She spiked a temperature - 103," Baffert said. "If you catch it early, it will go away. If you don't, it won't."

He says Yearly Report is unlikely to start in the Santa Anita Oaks.

"Mrs. Mabee says take care of them and wait until she's 100 percent," he said.

"She's as fast as any filly around," Baffert said. "I'll get her going. I might have to go out of town. She's still young and green. The Kentucky Oaks is a long way off."

Still, Baffert is quick to list Yearly Report as a filly to follow.

"She's a Grade 1 kind of filly," he said. "That's all you can ask."