04/21/2010 11:00PM

Key stakes adds shine to La Nez

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The more time passes after La Nez's third-place finish in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes against males at Santa Anita last December, the better her performance looks.

La Nez finished behind Caracortado and Alphie's Bet, both of whom went on to win graded stakes at Santa Anita during the winter. La Nez has yet to reach that level, but she can win the second stakes of her career in the $150,000 Melair Stakes for statebred

3-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park on Saturday, Gold Rush Day.

The Melair Stakes is run over

1 1/16 miles. La Nez has never won beyond seven furlongs. Trainer Eric Kruljac once thought La Nez was best as a sprinter, but said he thinks she can be effective in the Melair.

"I thought she might be a little better sprinting after she ran against the boys," Kruljac said. "After watching Alphie's Bet and Caracortado, I feel like she can route and do anything. I've got to feel fairly confident that she can get the 1 1/16 miles."

Co-owned by Kruljac, La Nez is making her second start of the year, following a runner-up finish to Tanda in the Grade 3 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old female sprinters at Santa Anita on March 28.

"That was her first race in three months, and she was a bit short," Kruljac said. "It was the first time I had a rider come back and say she was tired."

Kruljac intended to start La Nez in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita in February but passed when she spiked a fever, he said. The time off benefited La Nez, who has won 2 of 8 starts and $182,600.

"I think we've got a nice filly that I think we'll hear from," he said.

La Nez, who won the California Cup Juvenile Fillies last November, is one of three stakes winners in the Melair field. The others are Salty Fries, the winner of the Corte Madera Stakes at Golden Gate Fields last December, and Camille C, the winner of the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar last September.

Camille C, a winner of 2 of 12 starts and $179,551, is likely to be near the front. Trained by Marcelo Polanco for his brother Carlos, Camille C is winless in six starts since the Generous Portion, including a second to La Nez in the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies last October.

Camille C was fourth in the Grade 2 Providencia Stakes on turf at Santa Anita on April 3. Marcelo Polanco said the 1 1/8-mile distance of that race may have been a bit too far. Camille C led by two lengths in the stretch and was beaten 3 3/4 lengths.

"She hung a little at the end of her last race, and that was over a mile and an eighth," he said. "This is a better distance."

Also in the field are She's Not Lion and Twistnthenightaway, both maidens; Costanta, a former maiden claimer; and Blind Optimism, an improving filly making her stakes debut.