02/13/2003 12:00AM

Humorous Lady back at her distance

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ARCADIA, Calif. - It is understandable if bettors are reluctant to forgive Humorous Lady for her two losses at the Santa Anita meeting.

The winner of the Grade 2 Astarita Stakes at Belmont Park last October, Humorous Lady was sixth in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes on Dec. 27 and third in the Sunshine Millions Oaks on Jan. 25. In the Breeders' Champion and Millions Oaks, both seven-furlong races, she led early before fading through the stretch.

Despite those losses, trainer Mike Smith expects a different result in Saturday's $100,000 Boo la Boo Stakes, over six furlongs for California-bred 3-year-old fillies.

"Six furlongs is her deal," he said. "The seven furlongs shows she doesn't want to go that far."

Even though she was third in the Sunshine Millions Oaks, Humorous Lady had the best finish of a California-bred, finishing behind the Florida-breds Atlantic Ocean and Ivanavinalot.

"I thought she ran great," Smith said. "She had a little trouble at the gate - she turned a shoe halfway down. About three or four days later, her foot was bruised pretty good.

"The first seven-furlong race I ran her in, she got knocked down and she rushed to the lead. You have to throw that race out."

Humorous Lady is a confirmed front-runner. She is capable of running a quarter-mile in less than 22 seconds and will be the filly to catch. The unknown factor is how long she can last on the lead.

Despite her past credentials, Humorous Lady has no shortage of challengers. She has 10 opponents in the Boo la Boo, three of whom made their last start at Golden Gate Fields.

Denali Cat finished third in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes and returned to win the Miss California Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 18. Trainer Brian Koriner warned that a minor foot injury could force her withdrawal.

"She's had a little pulse in her foot," he said. "If I get to Saturday morning and things aren't going good, we might not run."

Denali Cat and O Nectar, who won a maiden claimer on Jan. 25, are the only entrants to have won their last start. Jaciro came close, finishing second in an optional claimer on Jan. 29, which was preceded by a seventh in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes.

Jaciro has enough speed to stalk Humorous Lady, and could be a factor in the stretch.

"She's got to have a good trip," trainer Jeff Bonde said.