09/29/2006 12:00AM

Healthy Addiction keeps improving

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Healthy Addiction, training this week at Santa Anita, will be favored in Sunday's Lady's Secret.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It took nearly three years for Healthy Addiction to reach the top of a jumbled division. Her challenge Sunday is to stay there.

Five fillies and mares entered the Grade 2 Lady's Secret Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile race that is the California farewell for Healthy Addiction, the favorite. A durable Grade 1 winner, Healthy Addiction will race once more, in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, before she retires.

To win the Lady's Secret, Healthy Addiction must defeat Grade 1 winners Hollywood Story and Star Parade, and allowance-caliber fillies Neuilly and Downthedustyroad. If the race unfolds without incident, the outcome is predictable.

Healthy Addiction "has a style where she usually gets a pretty good trip," said her trainer, John Sadler. A 5-year-old presser, Healthy Addiction has won nine races and $882,837 from 21 starts, including a victory last time out over her main rivals Sunday.

"She's solid; she's gotten stronger as she has gotten older," Sadler said. "She has bulked up as she has gone along. And she has stayed together, which some of them don't."

Pamela Ziebarth owns Healthy Addiction, who will go out at the top of her game. She won the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap in March, the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch in her most recent start Aug. 6 at Del Mar, and earned triple-digit Beyer Figures that are among the fastest in her division.

A victory Sunday would push Healthy Addiction over the million-dollar earnings mark, and establish her as a legitimate contender for the BC Distaff. Victor Espinoza rides Healthy Addiction, whose form is above reproach. The same cannot be said for her two main rivals.

Hollywood Story and Star Parade have defeated Healthy Addiction this year in Grade 1's, but neither mare enters the Lady's Secret with momentum. Hollywood Story finished 5 1/2 lengths behind Healthy Addiction last out at Del Mar; Star Parade finished last in a turf race.

A bad trip compromised Hollywood Story last time, according to trainer John Shirreffs.

"She got stuck on the rail, and when we scoped her she had a ton of stuff in her throat," he said. "She doesn't like dirt in her face. For her, to find clear sailing is very important."

George Krikorian owns Hollywood Story, a 4-for-25 millionaire who has had a solid career despite never having won at any track other than Hollywood Park. After finishing second in her debut as a 2-year-old, Hollywood Story has raced exclusively in graded stakes and is aiming for her fourth consecutive appearance in a Breeders' Cup this fall.

David Flores rides Hollywood Story; Shirreffs was pleased she drew an outside post. But winning the race will not be easy, because Hollywood Story must lose ground and rally from behind.

Star Parade is 7 years old, and she seems to have lost a step. She has won nine races and more than $1.2 million, and recently has shown less speed. Where she once could have dictated the tempo of the race, Star Parade will try to win from behind, according to trainer Darrell Vienna.

"I don't see my mare having the same kind of speed she used to," Vienna said. "She's gotten a little bit older, she's relaxed more, so I think we'll have more of a stalking trip."

Martin Pedroza rides Star Parade, who had a tough trip last time on grass.

Neuilly has never earned a speed figure that puts her close to Healthy Addiction, but she is lightly raced (six starts) and eligible for continued improvement. Neuilly is 4 for 4 on dirt, with a career-best Beyer of 85. Imported from Brazil, Neuilly is trained by Bobby Frankel.

Downthedustyroad removes blinkers and should get a softer pace scenario than her most recent start, when she was hounded through a hot pace in a mile race at Del Mar and got nailed by Neuilly. Downthedustyroad has a longshot chance to steal it. The only 3-year-old in the field, she is trained by Bob Baffert.

The Lady's Secret goes as race 3 on the nine-race card.