09/24/2001 11:00PM

Hopes soar at Oak Tree Meet

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Many autumns ago, the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita marked the symbolic conclusion to a season of racing. But the game has changed.

Championships are now won and lost at the Breeders' Cup in late fall, forever changing the Oak Tree meet, which this year starts Wednesday at Santa Anita. Instead of finality, the 32-day meet provides transition. Instead of resolution, the meet generates expectations, realistic or otherwise.

Tiznow faces a run-well situation Oct. 7 in the Goodwood Handicap in order to move closer to being entered in the Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

Kona Gold will prep for the B.C. Sprint on Oct. 6 in the Ancient Title Handicap. Juvenile contender Came Home runs Saturday in the Norfolk, and Juvenile Filly contender Habibti goes Sunday in the Oak Leaf, her last start before the Breeders' Cup.

Oak Tree is the right place to prep. The past two years, no venue has produced more Breeders' Cup starters (37) or winners (5) than Oak Tree. Tiznow, Kona Gold, and War Chant prepped here last year; Silic and Anees prepped at Oak Tree in 1999. The new season starts Wednesday, highlighted by the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap.

The meet will begin on a somber, patriotic note. At 12:15, the track will hold a ceremonial tribute for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist bombings.

"Oak Tree felt it appropriate that we share in the American sports effort to help the victims and and families of this great tragedy," said Sherwood Chillingworth, Oak Tree vice president. "They deserve recognition for their losses, and aid for their recovery." Oak Tree will match up to $100,000 in donations to the Red Cross.

Racing begins at 1 p.m. with a nine-race card that includes a competitive renewal of the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap. Twelve fillies and mares with varying agendas are entered in the "about" six and a half-furlong turf race.

Chichim and Global, for example, are using the race to prep for the California Cup on Nov. 3. Serenita is attempting to re-establish herself as one of the circuit's top filly-mare sprinters, and comebacker Blue Moon is expected to scratch in favor of an upcoming allowance.

Bettors who wager on only one horse per race could do worse than Global, a rags-to-riches California-bred who has blossomed in the seven months since trainer Jack Carava claimed her for $50,000. "I really thought she was going to be a bad claim," Carava said. "She has her aches and pains, but when she's not feeling good she'll tell you in the morning."

Lately, Global has been feeling good. She has won four of her last five starts, including a Sept. 5 upset in an overnight stake. Although her only workout since then was a four-furlong, 49-second move on Sept. 18, Carava said "it was the prettiest 49 you've ever seen. It could've been a 46 if you cut her head loose."

One of Global's main rivals is a filly she recently defeated - Forward Filly, who had not raced in a year when she made her U.S. debut on Sept. 5 at Del Mar. Forward Filly's third-place finish was a good starting point, according to trainer Jenine Sahadi.

"She didn't drop any weight in the race, she seems happy, and I though she was gutsy finishing."

An import from South Africa, Forward Filly is moving from dirt to turf on Wednesday. "Chris (McCarron) and I both noticed a big difference breezing her on grass as opposed to dirt," said Sahadi.

Drawn in post 1, Forward Filly and Global (post 9) likely will be pressing the pace, which likely will be contested by Serenita and Fair Apache. Early this year, Serenita finished third in the Grade 1 La Brea and second in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Serenita bled in her July 23 comeback at Del Mar, but has worked well for her return.

Other starters include Santa Monica winner Nany's Sweep, making her first start on grass; Cal Cup Distaff winner Chichim; and Valkyr winner Fair Apache. The Oak Tree meet runs through Nov. 5.