07/28/2003 11:00PM

Ladies hold high hands in turf race


DEL MAR, Calif. - It could be ladies first, as well as second and third, in Thursday's featured seventh race at Del Mar, in which trainers Laura de Seroux, Carla Gaines, and Kristin Mulhall have three of the top contenders.

The de Seroux-trained Little Treasure, an unlucky loser of the Grade 3 Royal Heroine Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 5, could be a tepid favorite against six rivals in the one-mile grass race, a money-allowance for older fillies and mares.

But she will need to be at her best to defeat Super High, a dangerous front-runner who is returning off a layoff for Gaines, and Sentimental Value, whom Mulhall is dropping into a softer spot after facing the likes of division leaders Tates Creek, Dublino, Megahertz, and Heat Haze in recent outings.

"Hopefully, it's a softer spot," Mulhall said Tuesday morning. "She's fresh. She's been working really well. She lost quite a bit of weight after her last race, but she's put it back on."

Sentimental Value has not raced for more than two months, and her recent works include a 1:12.40 move at Santa Anita that was the day's best for six furlongs on July 18.

Little Treasure won her lone previous start at Del Mar, last year's San Clemente Handicap. She is winless in four starts this year, but her most recent effort, when second in the Royal Heroine, was her best this year.

Super High should make full use of her rail draw, what with the aggressive Patrick Valenzuela up. She is strictly the one to catch. Super High won the Solana Beach Handicap on this course last year, and was beaten only two lengths by Little Treasure in the San Clemente.

If none of the three female trainers win, how about a female jockey? Julie Krone rides Coray, who was highly regarded when she first arrived in this country from Brazil, but who has not raced for 27 months. She was a three-time Group 1 winner in Brazil, including a victory against males.

"She had a big reputation there," said Richard Mandella, who trains Coray. Since arriving here, "she's had a lot of little problems," he said.

"She's trained well, but not so much that I would tout her," Mandella said. "Maybe she'll run better than she's trained. She's trained well enough to get her started here. I'm happy we've got her to that point, and I hope she runs well."

Mandella also has entered Crazy Ensign, another South American import, who is winless in her last 10 starts.