01/21/2003 1:00AM

Johar tops solid group


ARCADIA, Calif. - Johar extended his winning streak to three in Monday's $150,000 at Santa Anita, a victory that may have long-reaching consequences for the turf division in California.

Not only did the 4-year-old Johar beat older horses for the first time, but he also easily handled his first attempt beyond 1 1/8 miles.

"I think by the end of the year, we'll be pretty excited," winning trainer Richard Mandella said. "He's just getting stronger as he goes. I'm very optimistic about the rest of the year."

Johar, ridden by Alex Solis, overcame trouble on the final turn to run down stablemate The Tin Man and pacesetter Grammarian to prevail in a three-horse photo.

Johar ($6.60) ran 1 1/4 miles on turf in stakes record time of 1:57.92, finishing a head in front of The Tin Man, who was a nose in front of Grammarian. Harrisand finished a half-length behind Grammarian, and was followed by National Anthem, El Gran Papa, and T.H. Lear.

The Tin Man was the 8-5 favorite and was making his first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf last October.

Last year, Johar stayed in the 3-year-old division, placing in four stakes and winning the Oak Tree Derby and Hollywood Derby.

He faced his toughest opposition to date in the Grade 2 San Marcos. Grammarian, the winner of the Sunset and San Gabriel handicaps in the second half of 2002, took his customary position on the lead and led early through fractions of 23.28 seconds and 46.77.

His lead was reduced to a half-length at the end of the backstretch when The Tin Man moved closer.

Turning for home, Grammarian and The Tin Man were two lengths clear of Harrisand with Johar in fifth-place, stuck behind a wall of horses.

Entering the stretch, Solis moved Johar to the outside and found racing room.

Through the final furlong Johar closed steadily to win by a head.

Johar, owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., has won 5 of 12 starts and $672,215.

Shorter price, Elloluv wins again

Elloluv went from a 30-1 outsider in the Hollywood Starlet last month to a 9-5 contender in Monday's $150,000 at Santa Anita.

The role reversal made owner Paul Reddam anxious, but the result was the same: Elloluv scored a convincing victory to stake her claim of being one of the top 3-year-old fillies in California.

She won the Starlet Stakes by four lengths on Dec. 14 and was a commanding 2 1/2-length winner in the Santa Ynez.

"I was nervous about this race," Reddam said. "At 30-1, you don't have to worry about it."

Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, Elloluv was third early, stalking the pace set by No Love Song and Himalayan. Racing wide on the turn, Valenzuela brought Elloluv closer to the front in early stretch and was not threatened in the final furlong.

Elloluv paid $5.60 and finished seven furlongs in 1:23.03.

"The last quarter-mile I asked her and she took off," Valenzuela said. "I was really happy with the way she finished."

Watching You, who finished fourth in the Hollywood Starlet, finished second, eight lengths in front of Himalayan. The disappointment in the field of five 3-year-old fillies was Puxa Saco. The 6-5 favorite on the strength of stakes wins in sprints in the fall at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park, Puxa Saco rallied along the rail to challenge the leaders on the backstretch, but quickly faded from contention.

Puxa Saco finished 12 1/2 lengths behind the winner, and beat only No Love Song, who tailed off badly in the final furlong.

Elloluv will be pointed for the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on Feb. 9, according to trainer Craig Dollase.