08/02/2002 11:00PM

In land of the one-eyed, 'Mascara' is queen

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - If there was ever a sentimental favorite heading into a race, it would have to be More Mascara in the $40,000-added Elie Destruel Handicap at six furlongs on Monday, closing day at the Sonoma County Fair.

Gloria Haley, More Mascara's trainer, was born and raised in Santa Rosa, but the sentiment surrounds More Mascara herself.

The 7-year-old mare was born with only one eye and a deformed face that needed to be braced the first six months of her life.

Despite those handicaps, she made it to the track, and, at age 7, is blossoming as a racehorse. She has made three starts this year and was first to the wire in each of them, although she was disqualified once.

"Before this year, she was sometimes frightened by other horses," said Haley, whose patience and nurturing care have paid off with four wins, four seconds, five thirds in 26 starts and $89,256 in earnings.

"When she was disqualified, another horse cut in on her and spooked her, and she shied away."

When it comes to training, the main thing Haley tries to do in the barn and on the track is "to give her confidence." And she has begun to pony More Mascara with another one-eyed horse.

More Mascara came back from a six-month layoff to win a $12,500 claimer at Bay Meadows on May 3.

She ran so impressively that Haley tried her in an allowance race at Bay Meadows in her next start. More Mascara responded with another strong effort, beating Zodiaque to the wire by a length.

Although More Mascara was disqualified, Haley was more than pleased with her horse's effort and decided to run her in allowance company again, on July 12 at Vallejo.

More Mascara responded with the best race of her life, sitting close to the pace and exploding down the lane for an easy victory in a faster time than the next day's Vacaville Handicap.

Almost immediately, Haley began to think of the Elie Destruel in her hometown.

"Right now, she's feeling good about herself," Haley said before adding a note of caution. "The other horses in there are monsters."

The main monster in Monday's field of six is Channing Way, who went head and head with another of Monday's entrants, Hadl, the entire way in the six-furlong Vacaville to earn a hard-fought victory. The win was her seventh in 11 starts.

Haley knows the competition is tough, but she made the decision to enter based solely on More Mascara.

"Right now, she's got confidence so it's the right time to try," Haley said.