07/04/2008 11:00PM

Lady of Venice, Ventura rematch


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When Kiaran McLaughlin took over as the trainer of Lady of Venice late last year, he was merely hoping to keep her at her already high level of achievement. But when Bobby Frankel took over as the trainer of Ventura, he could only wish she would get to that level.

Ventura never ran in a group stakes race in eight starts in Europe, and her lone stakes win, in a listed race, came on Polytrack. Since arriving in the United States last fall, however, Ventura has emerged as one of the elite female turf horses in the country. And in doing so, she has developed a budding rivalry with Lady of Venice.

"I definitely didn't think she would be this good when I first got her," Frankel said Thursday morning from New York. "But she really turned around when she got here. She made a huge turnaround, in the way she trained and the way she looked."

Ventura and Lady of Venice ran one-two last month at Belmont Park in the Grade 1 Just a Game, and they figure to be the top two choices when they are rematched Saturday in the Grade 2, $750,000 CashCall Mile Invitational at Hollywood Park.

In the Just a Game, Ventura, sent off at 9-1, beat favored Lady of Venice by three-quarters of a length. Neither had an ideal trip, but Ventura got first run, and by the time Lady of Venice got free, it was too late.

"I thought she ran a good race," Frankel said. "She's got a good turn of foot. When the hole opened, she went right through."

Lady of Venice won the CashCall Mile last year when trained by Patrick Biancone. When Biancone was suspended later in the year, owner Martin Schwartz moved Lady of Venice to McLaughlin. She has yet to win in three starts for McLaughlin, but has raced well every time.

"She ran great last time," McLaughlin said from New York. "The other filly just got the jump on us. She's trained very well since that race. I think a mile is a perfect distance for her. She'll go farther. But the main thing for her is pace, and you always seem to get a little more pace going shorter."

Alan Garcia will ride Lady of Venice for the first time.

Five other fillies and mares are entered in the CashCall Mile, which goes as the seventh race on the 11-race card. Trainer Jim Cassidy sends out both Diamond Diva, who was second in the Gamely Handicap last time out, and Passified, who is making only her third start following a lengthy vacation to rest her bruised front feet.

Diamond Diva won her first two starts in this country using stalking tactics, but was sent to the lead through quick fractions in the Gamely by jockey Mike Smith. Cassidy is putting David Flores back on Diamond Diva, but retained Smith on Passified.

"I expected to be on the lead last time. I didn't expect that she was going to go that fast," Cassidy said. "When I saw the fractions, it's a good thing Mike's head was not under my arm."

La Tee, drawn to the inside of Diamond Diva in the CashCall Mile, figures to go for the lead, so Diamond Diva could get an ideal trip.

"For her to finish second last time, considering how fast she ran, shows she has serious quality," Cassidy said. "I'm hoping David can get her covered up this time."

Passified also has tactical speed. She comes off a win over La Tee in the restricted Redondo Beach Stakes.

"She's earned her way into this race," Cassidy said. "My biggest problem is going to be getting them both saddled without getting kicked. They're both tough."