12/04/2002 12:00AM

Ile de France drops into softer spot

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After chasing some of the nation's top 3-year-old fillies earlier this year, Ile de France is appearing against more realistic opposition this fall.

Following sixth-place finishes in the Kentucky Oaks and Hollywood Oaks in the spring, Ile de France was given a break. She returned to finish second in an allowance race at Santa Anita on Oct. 19.

On Friday, 3-year-old Ile de France starts as the favorite in a $45,000 allowance race for fillies over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park.

A victory could propel her into the La Canada Series at the upcoming winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita. Friday's first-condition allowance race is a logical prep to the second leg of that series, the $150,000 El Encino Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 19. The series concludes with the $200,000 La Canada Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 8.

First, Ile de France needs a win. Trained by Richard Mandella, Ile de France has never actually finished first in any of her races, having been promoted from second to first in a five-furlong maiden race in June 2001.

Earlier this year, she finished third in the Santa Anita Oaks, losing by two lengths to You and Habibti after leading in early stretch. The performance led to additional starts in stakes, but no success.

On Friday, she starts from post 7, the outside spot in the field. Her competition includes six 3-year-old fillies, several of whom could also appear in the La Canada Series with a victory or strong performance.

None of the seven are coming off wins. Golden Band was second in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 10, her fourth start. Ridaa was sixth in her last race, an allowance race at Belmont Park on Oct. 16.

Trainer John Shirreffs has two starters - Premiere Event and Smart Lacy. Premiere Event was third in an allowance race at Del Mar on Aug. 4 and has one victory in 10 starts. Smart Lacy was fifth at Santa Anita on Oct. 19. She was given a six-furlong drill of 1:13.80 on Nov. 25, the fastest recorded work at the distance that day.

The field also includes Summerwood, who was fifth in an allowance race for sprinters on Nov. 23, and Runway Lollipop, an Argentine import who was 11th in her U.S. debut on Nov. 3.

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