02/09/2004 1:00AM

Halfbridled out of Las Virgenes


ARCADIA, Calif. - Halfbridled, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2003, will miss a scheduled start in Sunday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita after trainer Richard Mandella said he was not satisfied with her recent training.

Mandella said he made the decision to pass the Las Virgenes after Halfbridled worked seven furlongs in 1:26.60 last Thursday, and he discussed the situation with the filly's owners, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer.

Mandella emphasized that Halfbridled is not fighting soundness problems.

"I just want to give her more time," he said.

Mandella said Halfbridled will be pointed for the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13.

"I'll set her up for the next one," Mandella said. "I'll give her a couple of extra days, give her an easy work, and then get back to serious works. It's no big deal."

Unbeaten in four starts, Halfbridled has not started since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last October at Santa Anita, her third career stakes win. She missed a few days of training in January because of a cough. Mandella said Halfbridled may have needed more time to recover from the cough than originally thought.

"She got over it, but her last work wasn't that good," he said.

The decision to postpone a champion's 2004 debut has already happened once with Mandella this year. Action This Day, the champion 2-year-old male of 2003, was scheduled to start in the Santa Catalina Stakes on Jan. 17, but was delayed to Sunday's Sham Stakes because Mandella was unhappy with his training last month. Action This Day finished fourth in the Sham.

The absence of Halfbridled will make the Las Virgenes Stakes a more competitive race.

The one-mile race is expected to include A.P. Adventure, Class Above, Friendly Michelle, Hollywood Story, Stellar Jayne, Whoopi Cat, Wildwood Flower, and perhaps Yearly Report. All except Friendly Michelle are stakes winners.

A.P. Adventure is unbeaten in two starts, including the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on Jan. 4. Hollywood Story won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 21, her most recent start.