10/09/2002 11:00PM

Ivanavinalot doesn't vanatravel


MIAMI - Nobody would have blamed owner Gil Campbell and trainer Kathleen O'Connell if they had decided to pass Saturday's $400,000 My Dear Girl Stakes in lieu of the $1 million Breeders' Cup two weeks later. After all, their filly has won four of her five starts, including her two-turn debut by five widening lengths, and is currently ranked among the leading contenders for the Juvenile Fillies.

But Campbell and O'Connell have opted to take a more conservative route with Ivanavinalot, who figures to be odds-on to add to her impressive resume with a victory in the 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl, the final leg of the filly division of the Florida Stallion Stakes. The My Dear Girl is one of nine stakes that comprise Saturday's Festival of the Sun at Calder Race Course.

"We talked about skipping this race and going to the Breeders' Cup, but Mr. Campbell always wants to do what's best for his horses, and in this case there's no question staying at home and running the filly in the My Dear Girl is in her best interests," O'Connell said.

Ivanavinalot certainly appears to have her seven My Dear Girl rivals over a barrel.

A homebred daughter of West Acre, Ivanavinalot has won her four races, including the seven-furlong Susan's Girl division of the Stallion Stakes and the mile and 70-yard Brave Raj, by an average margin of nearly eight lengths. She suffered her only setback in the opening leg of the Stallion series, the six-furlong Desert Vixen, finishing fourth after hitting the gate and being checked back to last after the start.

O'Connell said that Ivanavinalot has improved since the Brave Raj. "And she should be much better Saturday with a two-turn race under her belt," she said.

About the only knock against Ivanavinalot is the fact she drifted through the stretch runs of both the Susan's Girl and Brave Raj.

"I think her drifting is caused more by her greenness and the fact she gets so far in front [that] she thinks the race is over than anything else," O'Connell said. "If she wasn't changing leads I'd be concerned, but she finishes on the proper lead so I'm not too worried about it."

Regular rider M.R. Cruz again has the assignment.

The improving Dakota Light, who finished a late-striding second in the Brave Raj, may have the best upset chance, especially if the favorite gets pressured early on the lead by Fortunate Card or Heavenly Miss. Those fillies defeated Ivanavinalot when finishing first and second, respectively, in the Desert Vixen but proved no match for the division leader in the Susan's Girl.