04/19/2002 12:00AM

Grandera favored in Hong Kong


First-time blinkers can help Grandera give Godolphin another World Series Racing Championship victory Sunday in the $1.8 million Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin.

A 4-year-old son of Grand Lodge, Grandera skipped the Dubai Sheema Classic to await this 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Group 1 event, which is one of two races added this year to the still-sponsorless World Series.

Second in the Group 3 Dubai City of Gold on Feb. 24, Grandera has been knocking on the door of a big race win for nearly a year. He followed an unlucky third in the French Derby with seconds in the Eclipse Stakes and Juddmonte International and is perfectly suited to the distance and the prevailing good to firm ground. Frankie Dettori has the ride.

Japanese invaders Agnes Digital and Eishin Preston, both big race winners on Hong Kong International Day in December, failed in Dubai and may not now be at their best. Trainer Criquette Head-Maarek has her first Hong Kong runner in Okawango, a son of kingmmbo. Second in the Prix Edmond Blanc last time, Okawango looms a major threat. Local hope Helene Vitality looked sharp finishing second to Nayef in the Sheema Classic but is dropping down in distance.

In taking the Dubai World Cup, Street Cry won the first leg of the World Series for Godolphin, which dominated the first three year of the event, when it was sponsored by Emirates Airlines.