06/30/2004 11:00PM

French invader live play in American Oaks


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Steel Princess was beaten for the first time when she finished 10th in the French Oaks at Chantilly on June 13. With that major race behind her, and her three-race winning streak snapped, owner Richard Barnes and trainer Richard Gibson set their sights on international goals, sending Steel Princess to Hollywood Park for Saturday's $750,000 American Oaks.

"We've got little to lose to come out here," Gibson said Thursday on the Hollywood Park backstretch. "The classic program for 3-year-old fillies closes down after the French Oaks. From there, you have to run against older fillies."

Proven to like longer distances, Steel Princess is a filly with an outside chance to win the Oaks, run over 1 1/4 miles on turf. She is one of five fillies who made their last start outside of the United States, along with invaders from Australia, Ireland, Japan, and New Zealand.

Gibson, an Englishman based in Chantilly, France, is well aware of the challenges facing Steel Princess. In the early 1990's, Gibson, 34, spent six months working for trainer Gary Jones in Southern California. He also worked briefly with Bill Mott on the East Coast before returning to Europe.

Gibson has an 80-horse stable in France. Recent conversations with jockey Gary Stevens, who is riding first string for trainer Andre Fabre in France, helped to sway Gibson and Barnes to try the American Oaks.

"He strongly advised that we give it a go," Gibson said.

An Irish-bred filly by Danehill, Steel Princess won her career debut on dirt last December but did not race again until late March when she won an allowance race on turf at Longchamp. She used a late rally to win her next start, the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre over about 1 5/16 miles on turf at Saint-Cloud in mid-May.

Love and Bubbles, the runner-up in that race, returned to win the Group 3 Prix Chloe in late June.

"The form of that race has turned out very good," Gibson said.

In the French Oaks, Steel Princess was dismissed at 16-1 in a field of 17. She was in striking range until the quarter pole when she faded to 10th, losing by 9 1/4 lengths to Latice.

"We were disappointed with the French Oaks," Gibson said. "She came out of it a little stiff and in season. Her training has been good and it's worth a shot."

Aside from the travel, there are other drawbacks. Steel Princess has never run on firm turf and drew post 13 in the field of 14.

"It's not an ideal draw but I don't consider it a major disadvantage," Gibson said.

On Stevens's advice, Gibson has booked Tyler Baze to ride Steel Princess. The filly is a stalker, who also has shown the ability to be effective from far off the pace.

Steel Princess will be a decent price in a wide-open betting race. Dance in the Mood, the winner of the Japanese 1000 Guineas in April, is likely to be a slight favorite.

"Even in Chantilly, we have heard big things about the Japanese filly," Gibson said.

Even though the American Oaks has been run only twice, shippers have a strong record. Dublino, who began her career in France, was first in the inaugural running in 2002, but was disqualified and placed second for bothering Megahertz in the final furlong. Megahertz also began her career in France, but had run several times in California before the American Oaks.

Last year, the Irish invader Dimitrova won the American Oaks.

"The French-trained horses have done exceptionally well in California over the years," Gibson said.

On Saturday, Steel Princess can continue that streak of foreign success in the American Oaks.

Olmodavor legs up for Gold Cup

Olmodavor, a two-time stakes winner, worked a mile in 1:42.60 at Santa Anita on Thursday in preparation for a start in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10.

Trained by Richard Mandella for the Wertheimer family, Olmodavor has not started since finishing fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap here on May 8.

Earlier this year, Olmodavor won the Grade 3 Whirlaway Handicap at Fair Grounds but finished fourth in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

The Gold Cup, run over 1 1/4 miles, is likely to have a small field. As of Wednesday, the probable starters were Even the Score, Total Impact, and Yessirgeneralsir.

Siphonizer on road to Bing Crosby

Siphonizer, the winner of the Del Mar Futurity last September, is likely to make his next start in the $250,000 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar on July 25.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes and trained by Mandella, Siphonizer has made one start this year, a convincing win in a six-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs on April 24. He was scratched from the Grade 2 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes on May 29 because of a respiratory illness.

The lingering effects of that illness will prevent a start in a sprint stakes at Calder next week, and has led Mandella to focus on the Bing Crosby.

"He's working but I've been afraid to run him," Mandella said. "I'm thinking of that race at Del Mar."

Siphonizer has won 3 of 6 starts and $229,775. Last fall, he finished fourth in the Norfolk Stakes and 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Siphonizer underwent a throat operation last winter that delayed his 3-year-old debut.

Pick six has $1 million guarantee

Hollywood Park is guaranteeing the pick six pool will reach $1 million on Saturday, the third time the promotion has been offered this meeting.

On the April 24 Gold Rush program, the pick six pool drew only $954,622, forcing an insurance policy to make up the difference.

On the Memorial Day program on May 31, the pick six pool was $1,906,884, helped in part by a carryover of $187,481 from the previous day.

Saturday's pick six covers races 5 through 10, consisting of a maiden race for sprinters, the American Oaks, an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on dirt, the Flawlessly Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on turf, the Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap over seven furlongs on dirt, and a sprint for 2-year-old maidens.