12/18/2003 12:00AM

Gann entry holds edge in Dahlia


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The 11 fillies and mares in Saturday's $150,000 Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood Park are so evenly matched that a case can be made for nearly any of them to wind up in the winner's circle.

Atlantic Ocean, Betty's Wish, Blind Ambition, Katdogawn, Hoh Buzzard, and Moscow Burning have won stakes this year.

Adalgisa and Personal Legend have yet to win stakes but have run well in important races in recent months. A win by Innit, Valdoura, or Voz de Colegiala would be considered a surprise.

Exotic players will not have an easy time deciphering exactas and trifectas, but the field makes for an intriguing running of the Grade 2 race for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Strength in numbers will make the Ed Gann-owned entry of Betty's Wish and Personal Legend the favorite. Trained by Bobby Frankel, they both are 3-year-old fillies who have something to prove, as neither has won at this level.

Frankel has won the Dahlia a record six times in the race's 21-year history, including a dead heat for first last year when Surya finished on even terms with Tout Charmant.

Personal Legend is winless in four stakes, but she placed in two important races during the summer, finishing second in the American Oaks here in July and third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks a month later.

She finished eighth after a wide trip in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in October but returned to win an allowance race here as a heavy favorite on Nov. 15.

Frankel said that race has left him unsure what to expect on Saturday.

"It was an easy race, and I can't judge off that," he said.

The Dahlia will test the class of Betty's Wish. She easily won the restricted Starine Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 24 and returned three weeks later to score by 3 1/2 lengths in the Grade 3 Pebbles Handicap. Those races were on yielding and good surfaces. "She's never run on firm turf," Frankel said. "Any chance for rain?"

Hoh Buzzard is likely to set the pace, closely followed by Atlantic Ocean and Betty's Wish. Trained by Ben Cecil, Hoh Buzzard dueled for the lead in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere over a yielding turf course at Churchill Downs on Nov. 15 and won by a neck.