05/06/2004 11:00PM

Give Adoration edge in Vanity

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Apparently outclassed and utterly disrespected at 40-1, Adoration ran so slowly last fall in the Breeders' Cup Distaff that the win was considered a fluke. Her 101 Beyer Speed Figure was the lowest by a Distaff winner, and two subsequent defeats did little to enhance Adoration's reputation.

Instead, Island Fashion, who won two Grade 1 sprints and finished second in the Santa Anita Handicap against males, and Star Parade, who led gate to wire in a Grade 2 and a Grade 1, emerged as division leaders.

Despite the two losses, Adoration's trainer, David Hofmans, and owner, John Amerman, did not lose faith.

"I thought there were pretty good excuses for both races," Hofmans said.

The winner got an easy lead the first time. Hofmans said he erred in strategy second time.

"I told Mike [Smith] to push her and stay close, and that's not what Adoration wants to do," he said.

In the Grade 1 Santa Margarita on March 14, Smith let Adoration position herself, and she ran the best race of her career. She outran Star Parade by two lengths, earned a career-best 107 Beyer, and re-established herself as California's top filly or mare.

puts her reputation on the line Sunday at Hollywood Park in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap. The field of six includes stakes winners Hope Rises and Victory Encounter, and outsiders Coconut Girl and Beaucette. The Vanity, however, is a two-horse race between Adoration and Star Parade, and at the distance, Adoration holds the advantage.

"A mile and an eighth suits us better than some of the others," Hofmans said.

Adoration has won 6 of 17 starts and earned $1.6 million, and her two best races have been at 1 1/8 miles - the Distaff and Santa Margarita. Adoration has been aimed toward the Vanity since her last race.

Nine furlongs is beyond Star Parade's preference. Winner of a Grade 1 in February, has raced beyond 1 1/16 miles once, when defeated by Adoration in the Santa Margarita. Trained by Darrell Vienna and owned by Gary Tanaka, Star Parade has won five races and $486,112 from 15 starts. Star Parade ran third a month ago in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom. Star Parade holds a 2-1 edge over Adoration in their meetings.

The other two starters are 4-for-6 Hope Rises, who was unplaced in two previous graded stakes races and whose best winning Beyer is 92, and Victory Encounter who has won 6 of 10, including the Grade 2 El Encino.