07/03/2007 11:00PM

Koiuta tops Japanese contingent


Three rather accomplished Japanese females will attempt to duplicate the 2006 feat of Dance in the Mood by winning the CashCall Mile at Hollywood Park on Friday, but if recent form is to be believed, it is Koiuta who will give local favorite Price Tag the most trouble. (Wait a While was to be scratched due to illness, trainer Todd Pletcher said.) Indeed, a repeat of her May 13 victory in the Victoria Mile, a race won last year by Dance in the Mood, could land Koiuta the $525,000 first prize.

She ranked among Japan's very best 3-year-old fillies last year, winning a Grade 3 prep for the Japanese 1000 Guineas, then finishing a close third in the classic fillies mile behind Kiss to Heaven, who also will line up for the CashCall on Friday. But Koiuta suffered a mishap in her next start when she was eased in the Japanese Oaks and sidelined for five months.

Koiuta didn't return to anything like the form she had displayed last spring until two starts ago when she was second against males in a Grade 3 mile at Nakayama. She blossomed last time when defeating last year's American Oaks runner-up Asahi Rising as well as Kiss to Heaven and her other Japanese CashCall rival, Dia de La Novia, in the Victoria Mile.

If Koiuta maintains that form, she will be difficult to beat, even with Price Tag applying the pressure. Any filly who can get a mile in 1:32.50, like Koiuta did in winning the Victoria, is a force to be reckoned with.

Kiss to Heaven is winless in eight starts since her 1000 Guineas win, and while she has been knocking heads with Japan's best in all of those races, she will be meeting similar in the CashCall. Ditto Dia de la Novia, who shows just a single Grade 3 win since April 2005, although it must be pointed out that both her trainer, Katsuhiko Sumii, and rider, Yasunari Iwata, are on hot streaks.

A South African import by way of Dubai adds spice to the CashCall. Alexandra Rose failed against lesser in a pair of listed races at Nad Al Sheba this winter for Mike de Kock and is coming off a 4 1/2-month layoff. Now with Neil Drysdale, she will be facing tougher on Friday and cannot be recommended.