12/14/2005 12:00AM

Her star's back on the rise


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - On Wednesday, Dec. 7, a dark brown female Thoroughbred named Star Parade finished up the track in a $30,000 maiden claimer at Turfway Park.

Then, four days later and some 1,900 miles to the west, a dark brown female Thoroughbred named Star Parade surfaced at Hollywood Park to win the Bayakoa Handicap by four lengths against a field that included major stakes winners Dream of Summer and Island Fashion.

Conspiracy, or coincidence?

Turns out that it doesn't really matter, since these two Star Parades have virtually no chance of running into each other in the foreseeable future, and anyone who would confuse the two might also need help sorting black and white socks.

Star Parade No. 1 is a 3-year-old daughter of Richter Scale, bred in Kentucky and owned by Richard Kaster, who has yet to hit the board in four lifetime starts for three different trainers. Until she catches fire, Kaster will be better known for his association with 1997 2-year-old filly champion Countess Diana and likely 2005 steeplechase champion McDynamo.

The other Star Parade is a 6-year-old Argentine mare who is trained by Darrell Vienna and races for Gary Tanaka, the owner of champions Gourmet Girl and Golden Apples, as well as such major stakes winners as Rakti, Pico Central, and Sarafan. Since being imported to the U.S. by Vienna in May of 2004, the older Star Parade has won four major stakes and just shy of a million dollars in purses.

For all the policy wonks in the audience, the younger Star Parade received her name in September of 2004, according to The Jockey Club. At that point, the older Star Parade had already established herself as one of the top main-track mares in California, with victories in the Santa Maria Handicap and the Milady Handicap, as well as a score over Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Adoration in the 2003 version of the Bayakoa.

Because Star Parade hailed from Argentina, and did not rise to the level of a champion, a Breeders' Cup winner, or a million-dollar earner, her name was not protected from use, even in the midst of her fine competitive career. Technically, she moves through racing's various computer programs with "(ARG)" trailing her name, like a piece of tissue stuck to a heel.

Anyone can be forgiven, however, for thinking that the name of Star Parade had pretty much disappeared from view. After winning five of her first 10 U.S. starts, the mare's form went south. Before last Sunday's version of the Bayakoa, she had not won a race since July of 2004, a long dry stretch that included only a few bright spots among the disappointments.

She displayed a glimmer of her old spark in the Lady's Secret Handicap in October during the Oak Tree meet, when she was second, beaten a half, by Healthy Addiction. In her next start, Vienna put her on the Santa Anita turf and was impressed with her third-place finish to Mea Domina in the Las Palmas Handicap.

By then, Vienna was beginning to think that a new feeding program was having positive effects. From the moment she hit the California ground, with a victory in her first U.S. start at Del Mar in July of 2003, Star Parade was a hyperactive diva who would just as soon put a hoof through a wall than hold still. Vienna began phasing out the high-carbohydrate elements in her feed with a low-carb, high-fat regimen.

"It's been around for a while, and I've been using it on some of my horses," Vienna said. "My sample is too small to draw any definite conclusions, but it looks like it has an impact on certain types of horses who don't do as well on high-carbohydrate diets."

Such horses, Vienna speculated, process traditional high-carb feed at a faster rate than do others.

"They have a complex of symptoms that include tying up, nervousness, and being tough to train, because they want to do a lot," Vienna said. "We'd use the term 'feeling high,' and you would usually like that. But when horses tie up and occasionally bleed, the symptoms begin to get in the way of performance. Star Parade was getting more and more that way."

According to the trainer, the change in feeding must be introduced slowly. There are no overnight miracles. Even now, after seven months on this version of an equine Atkins diet, Vienna is reluctant to give Star Parade's altered eating habits full credit for her sharp recent form.

"It may have nothing to do with it," Vienna noted. "I'm certainly not the first trainer to try it. In fact, I may be late to the party. She has been very sound of limb - although maybe not so sound of lung, with her bleeding - but it always looked like she was saving something at the end of her races. The real tipoff was the way she ran in that turf race [the Las Palmas], because that isn't what she really wants to do."

Vienna has the green light from Tanaka to keep Star Parade in training as a 7-year-old in 2006, beginning with the top races for the division at Santa Anita Park. By now, the mare has outlasted such contemporaries as Azeri, Ador-ation, Wild Spirit, Bare Necess-ities, Miss Loren, and Victory Encounter.

"That's because I don't have a lot like her," Vienna said. "When you only have one apple tree instead of a whole orchard, you really take care of that tree."