10/22/2003 11:00PM

Is Halfbridled good enough to overcome post 14?


ARCADIA, Calif. - In light of her drawing the 14 post for the $1 million Juvenile Fillies, Halfbridled has gone from the most likely winner on Saturday's Breeders' Cup card at Santa Anita to perhaps one of the most vulnerable favorites.

"She went from being the biggest favorite on the day to being 2-1,'' said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Grade 1 winner Ashado, one of 13 rivals Halfbridled will have to face. "She's got to be much the best to win from out there.''

From what he has seen from his filly thus far, trainer Richard Mandella believes Halfbridled can overcome her unfortunate draw and cap a perfect season - and a division championship - with a victory in the Juvenile Fillies.

"I think she's a special filly; I think she'll overcome it,'' Mandella said Thursday morning. "It's just another test. Thank God I got the one I got. I don't think just any of them can win from out there.''

Halfbridled, a daughter of Unbridled owned by Wertheimer Farm, vaulted to the top of her division with convincing scores in the Del Mar Debutante and Oak Leaf Stakes. In her three victories, she has won from last, a stalking position, and on the lead. Halfbridled's multiple gears puts jockey Julie Krone in position to become the first female rider to win a Breeders' Cup race.

"She will do anything I need her to do,'' Krone said.

There is a tremendous amount of speed in the Juvenile Fillies and Krone will most likely use Halfbridled a little bit out of the gate to gain position and then try to take her back off the pace.

Forest Music, who comes off a maiden win at Laurel Park, where she ran six furlongs in 1:08.53, will attempt to take the field as far as she can under Edgar Prado. Be Gentle, the Darley Alcibiades winner, will probably have to use her speed from post 13. Ashado, Victory U. S. A., and Vino Tinto, another sprinter stretching out, could also be pace factors.

A year ago, trainer Bob Baffert won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile for Padua Stables with Vindication, a horse who romped to victory in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile. Saturday, he will try to win the Juvenile Fillies for Padua with Class Above, who is coming off a 16-length romp in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies.

"She's got a great mind,'' Baffert said. "Whoever can sit behind horses is going to have the advantage. That's the whole key.''

If that is the case, then Society Selection could be very live in the Juvenile Fillies. She made the difficult jump from a five-furlong maiden win to a Grade 1 victory in the Frizette at 1 1/16 miles. She did it with a strong closing kick that should make her a prime candidate to handle two turns, which she tries for the first time Saturday.

A victory by Society Selection would be popular in the industry as it would be the first Breeders' Cup victory for 74-year-old Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens. His presence in the race is almost as daunting to Mandella as Halfbridled's outside post.

"You always worry, particularly about Allen Jerkens,'' said Mandella, noting Jerkens's reputation as the "Giant Killer.'' "They've been calling him that a long time.''

And this time, Mandella has the giant.