06/08/2004 11:00PM

Kurlicue gets first stakes try


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer James Cassidy said he liked Kurlicue's looks when he purchased her at the Tatter-salls sale in her native Ireland last October.

He likes her even more as she prepares for her U.S. stakes debut in Saturday's $75,000 Bay Meadows Oaks. Six 3-year-old fillies appear set for the 1 1/16-mile turf race, with Kurlicue the 118-pound highweight.

Kurlicue set a slow pace and held on to win her U.S. debut by a head May 6 at Hollywood Park.

Cassidy said one thing that appealed to him at the sale was that Kurlicue had run well in listed races. In one of those races, she ran third to Castledale, who came to America and won the Grade 3 Generous last fall and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby this spring. Both of her victories in Ireland came against males.

Cassidy said an injury this winter delayed Kurlicue's start. But all's well that ends well.

"She's a straightforward little girl," Cassidy said. "She's a typical European who doesn't work fast."

Cassidy was surprised to see Kurlicue on the lead at Hollywood Park. Her fractions were 48.51 seconds and 1:12.41.

"She broke really good, which is unusual the first time out for many Europeans," Cassidy said. Jockey Mike Smith, he said, "went on with her. She didn't let anybody by her, and they tried to get by her."

Kurlicue picked up the pace in the final quarter-mile and maintained her advantage, putting away favored Fortun-ately and holding off Sagitta Ra, the 3-2 second choice, for the win.

"I don't think she overdid herself," said Cassidy. "You always worry about the so-called European bounce, but I haven't done much with her. In the last week or two, all signs say she's fine."

Dawn's Angel has dropped out of the picture for the race after developing a cough. Expected to run are the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained duo of Crozet and Secret Corsage; Lost Bride, a six-length winner in her turf debut; and maidens Blowing Bartok and West Coast Monarch.

* Raise the Heat and Golden Starlight, stablemates in the Hollendorfer barn, appear the ones to beat in Friday's feature, a first-level allowance race at one mile. Both have good speed and have run well lately. The X factor is Argentine-bred Mangazo, who makes his U.S. debut for Darrell Vienna. He won 3 of 11 starts in his native land.