12/24/2002 1:00AM

Humorous Lady can go the distance


ARCADIA, Calif. - The owners of Humorous Lady have spent more than $20 million this year acquiring future broodmare prospects, but pedigree sits backseat to performance Friday at Santa Anita. The question is: Can Humorous Lady stay seven furlongs in the $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes?

The likely answer is yes, largely due to a drop in class. Humorous Lady set the pace and tired to eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 26.

Running her in the 1 1/8-mile Juvenile Fillies was an enterprising move, trainer Mike Smith admits. "It was a little ambitious, but this filly's got a lot of guts and she will go two turns," he said.

On Friday, she will not have to. Humorous Lady, owned by the Classic Star Stable of David Plummer and Tony Ferguson, faces 11 California-bred 2-year-old filly sprinters in the one-turn Cal Breeders'.

It is a race Humorous Lady can control start to finish. When she won the Grade 2 Astarita at Belmont in October, Jerry Bailey called her "one of the fastest horses I have ever been on."

That was her first start for her new owners, who also purchased top sprinters Xtra Heat and Above Perfection this year. Humorous Lady, 4 for 7 overall, is back doing what she does best Friday - sprint. Her trainer predicts a top effort in her first start in two months.

"She's going to run good," Smith said, adding, "I backed off her after the Breeders' Cup, and she hasn't missed any time."

Mike Smith will be the eighth jockey to ride Humorous Lady, whose chances hinge partly on pace. Humorous Lady is quick, but she is not the lone front-runner. Second-time starter Princess V. drew the rail and probably must gun to the front, and Golden Gate shippers Denali Cat and Watch Out World will apply pressure from the outside.

It was Humorous Lady's win in the Astarita that stamped her as a quality filly. Despite missing three weeks of training after a Bay Meadows stakes win Aug. 11, Humorous Lady set a wicked pace and led gate to wire in the 6 1/2-furlong Astarita. Her effort Friday will set her up for the $250,000 Sunshine Million Oaks on Jan. 25, another seven-furlong race at Santa Anita.

That is the race on the radar for most of the Cal Breeders' starters. Humorous Lady's main rivals Friday include 4-for-7 Global Finance, impressive Golden Gate debut winner Jaciro, and Princess V.

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