02/14/2007 12:00AM

French import highly regarded in U.S. debut

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Riche Americaine makes her U.S. debut in a $63,000 allowance race at Santa Anita on Friday, coming off a career-best performance - and with the full support of her new trainer.

The 4-year-old filly won a minor stakes in France in her last start, in September, a 36-1 upset in a race over about 1 1/4 miles on turf. And Riche Americaine has so impressed trainer Julio Canani with her recent training that he is quietly hoping that she can develop into a contender for the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap here in April.

"She has to show me" she's that good, Canani said. "So far she's done everything right."

Recently acquired by Prestonwood Racing, Riche Americaine won 3 of 10 starts in France. Her victory last out in the La Coupe de Marseille ended a three-race losing streak dating back to a one-mile handicap at Longchamp in May.

Two of Riche Americaine's three wins were at a mile, which indicates that she can be effective at Friday's distance of 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Riche Americaine will face a stern test in the field of six fillies and mares that includes Dalicia, Nakaba, and Quick as Ray.

Dalicia, a Group 3 stakes winner in Germany in 2005, has not started since finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park last June. In four starts in this country, she has one victory, an optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park last May.

Nakaba and Quick as Ray, group stakes winners in Brazil, are trained by Paulo Lobo. Nakaba won her U.S. debut in October, but was sixth in the Hermosa Beach Handicap at Hollywood Park in November and eighth in the Tuzla Handicap here on Jan. 24.

Quick as Ray won the 2006 Brazilian Oaks, a Group 1 over about 1 1/4 miles on turf. She was no factor in her U.S. debut on Dec. 6, finishing seventh of eight in the Winter Stakes as a 17-1 outsider.

Earlier on the card, there are two noteworthy races on the hillside turf course - the third race, an optional claimer, and the fifth race, an allowance race.

Doppio, who won 4 of 5 starts in 2006, is a leading contender in the third race.

In the fifth, the French import Madrago will add blinkers in an attempt to win for the second time in nine starts. He must beat Barbados, Swift Winds, and Ten Downing Street.