12/06/2001 1:00AM

Keemoon can do despite 124


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Following the worst performance in her two-year North American career, Keemoon will appreciate the friendly surroundings of Hollywood Park when she defends her title in Saturday's $70,000 Waya Handicap.

After an early-season campaign that included wins in the Bewitch Handicap at Keeneland and Honey Fox Handicap at Del Mar and a second in the Yerba Buena Handicap at Bay Meadows, Keemoon finished 11th in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on Sept. 30.

A 5-year-old trained by Neil Drysdale, Keemoon can rebound in the Waya, at 1 1/2 miles on turf. Keemoon is the 124-pound highweight and the likely favorite against six others. "A mile and a half is a good trip for her," Drysdale said.

He blames the Woodbine loss on the "good" ground there that day, and said Keemoon has worked well under Gary Stevens in preparation for Saturday.

"She didn't handle the going very well up in Canada," Drysdale said. "It was off. Gary worked her the other day and was pleased."

Keemoon is at home on the Hollywood Park turf. In three starts there, she has never been worse than second. Included are wins in an allowance race and the 2000 Waya, and a second-place finish in the 2000 Estrapade Stakes.

Despite carrying top weight, Keemoon stands out. Her biggest threat among the race nominees, The Seven Seas, is being pointed for a race in Florida.

The other contenders include Nepenthe, Top of Our Game, and Boismorand - all stakes winners this year. Of those, only Boismorand is a group stakes winner, having won the Grand Prix de Vichy last July. Boismorand made little impression in her U.S. debut, finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes over a yielding turf course here on Nov. 25.

Nepenthe, a stakes winner at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 30, could inherit the lead in a race void of a confirmed front-runner.

Trained by Ron McAnally, Nepenthe won an allowance race over 1 1/2 miles on turf here last June and was second in the Estrapade Stakes to The Seven Seas last July. She was fifth in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 29, a performance that eliminated her from consideration for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Nepenthe carries 116 pounds in the Waya, eight fewer than Keemoon, a fact that concerns Drysdale. "The problem is she's carrying 124 pounds," he said. "That's a major problem."

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