07/02/2003 12:00AM

A filly who is 'tough as nails'

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - This being an odd-numbered year, and Friday being the Fourth of July, it seemed reasonable to expect Beau Greely to have that reliable old Irish horse Takarian primed and ready for another run at the American Handicap at Hollywood Park. After all, he did win the race in 1999, at odds of 31-1, and again in 2001, at 14-1.

As it turns out, the 8-year-old Takarian is otherwise occupied, retired these days to a life at stud in England. This leaves the door wide open for the 2003 version of the American, a race of admirable tradition that has enjoyed 34 uninterrupted years at nine furlongs on the turf. Candy Ride, Special Ring, and five others will try to add their names to a history that already includes Ack Ack, John Henry, Tight Spot, Fiddle Isle, and Toussaud, the dam of Empire Maker.

"We had a good run with Takarian," Greely said. "His ankles were starting to get a little too arthritic, though. It was time to retire him."

Greely will be watching this year's American Handicap from the sidelines, along with his middle-distance grass runners Century City and Sligo Bay. Neither one was ready to take the field. Instead, the trainer is concentrating on Saturday's $750,000 American Oaks with Go for Glamour, who will be among the longshots in the field of 14 going 1 1/4 miles on the grass.

And while Greely respects the credentials of such Oaks entrants as Meridiana and Santa Catarina, he thinks his filly is worth at least a couple of bucks at a price. If nothing else, she deserves respect for sheer survival.

In her last race, the Kentucky Oaks on May 2, Go for Glamour had enough trouble on the first turn to steal the show from the eventual winner, Bird Town. Alex Solis dismounted, his filly spattered in her own blood, and headed back to the jocks' room wearing the thousand-yard stare of a man who had just walked away from a plane crash.

"I guess I'll have a perfect trip in the Derby tomorrow," Solis said later, after the shock had worn off, "because I had all my trouble out there today."

After surveying the damage, Greely was surprised to find Go for Glamour in one piece. Apparently, she treated the incident as if it was business as usual.

"You always worry about how they'll react mentally, but she's tough as nails," Greely said. "I think she scared me more than she did herself. After that race she was bleeding from every leg. She was one millimeter from slicing a tendon in half.

"She came back extremely sound, though," he added. "We had to give her the one month of no racing after giving her penicillin, which is the state rule in California. But she never missed a bite of feed, and she's been training well - just as good as she was going into the Kentucky Oaks."

Go for Glamour earned her Oaks invitation with third-place finishes in the Santa Anita Oaks and the Fantasy Stakes earlier this year. Although she is still eligible for a nonwinners-of-two, she can at least show some form on grass, with two seconds in maiden company on the Hollywood grass last fall.

That is a far cry from what she will face in the American Oaks. Working with a generous Oaks promotional budget, the Hollywood racing office has harvested good fillies from New York, Maryland, Kentucky, France, Ireland, and Germany for its second running. On top of that, Greely will be running a filly at 10 furlongs off a two-month absence from competition.

"She worked a nice seven-eighths a few days ago, 1:27 and change, nice and easy," Greely noted. "And she's a Pine Bluff out of a Seeking the Gold mare, so I don't think the distance is going to be a problem." Pine Bluff won the Preakness, while Seeking the Gold was narrowly beaten in the Travers and the Breeders' Cup Classic, both at 1 1/4 miles.

"Besides," Greely added, "I don't think too many of these fillies have even been a mile and a quarter, so nobody really knows for sure who can get the trip."

In fact, the only American Oaks entrants with experience over the distance of ground are all Europeans - Liska and Golden Nepi, both now in the care of Laura de Seroux, and the German filly Meridiana, who finished third in the Italian Oaks.

Without a doubt, the distance of the American Oaks adds to its considerable intrigue. If it were just another nine-furlong race, it would be no big deal. The best, most satisfying competition combines elements of breeding, conditioning, and tactics, and the mile and a quarter tends to require all three. All that's left is a little bit of luck to deal with the large field. And, if nothing else, Go for Glamour is due for a little luck.