01/27/2006 12:00AM

Lead is Behaving Badly's to lose

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Behaving Badly stretches out to seven furlongs in the Santa Monica Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita boils down to one simple question - can anyone catch Behaving Badly?

Nine fillies and mares entered the Santa Monica, a seven-furlong sprint that pits the speed of Behaving Badly against the class of Grade 1 winner Leave Me Alone. The remaining Santa Monica entrants are Sharp Lisa, Miss Terrible, Alphabet Kisses, Nossa Cancao, Awesome Lady, Reforest, and Allswellthatnswell.

blitzed Hollywood Park allowance foes in her last start Dec. 16, running six furlongs in 1:08.13 and earning a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure, which is higher than the winning Beyers in four of the last five Santa Monica Handicaps.

"Her last race was just phenomenal," said trainer Bob Baffert, adding that he hopes she can repeat the effort in a more significant race. "I hate it when they run that fast in an allowance race."

The bigger concern, perhaps, is whether Behaving Badly can carry her speed another furlong. "It depends on the track," Baffert said. "They keep messing with the track. I think she'll be all right."

Victor Espinoza rides Behaving Badly, who has won 4 of 6, including the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap last August at Del Mar. Owned by Hal and Patti Earnhardt, Behaving Badly has earned $197,200 and will be positioned in front of Leave Me Alone, her main rival.

Leave Me Alone has won five races and $586,370 from 11 starts, including the Grade 1 Test in August at Saratoga. A 4-year-old, Leave Me Alone was entered in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint Saturday, but on Friday morning, trainer Eric Kruljac said he was leaning toward running her in a smaller field in the Santa Monica. Leave Me Alone would break from post 10 going six furlongs Saturday; she drew post 3 in the Santa Monica.

"I'm a little concerned about getting a wide trip Saturday," Kruljac said. "If I can be in a five- or six-horse field Sunday, I'll probably go for that."

Nine entered the Santa Monica.

finished second in her Dec. 31 comeback in the Grade 1 La Brea for 3-year-old fillies.

"We were absolutely ecstatic," Kruljac said. "She was close to an insane, wicked pace, and she still finished. She was the only [front-runner] that did finish."

Pussycat Doll won the La Brea from more than 13 lengths off the pace; Leave Me Alone chased from fifth position, and finished 4 1/2 lengths clear of third.

The class of the field, Leave Me Alone is quick enough to race within striking range of Behaving Badly. If the pacesetter does not stay the trip, Leave Me Alone, owned by Steve Mitchell, can win under Kent Desormeaux. The other filly coming out of the La Brea is Sharp Lisa.

Trained by Doug O'Neill, Sharp Lisa won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes last spring and finished fourth in her comeback in the La Brea. "She was rushed into that race and needed it," said Dennis O'Neill, who assists his brother. "She'll run a lot better [Sunday]."

has won 3 of 8, including the Grade 2 Santa Ynez last winter at seven furlongs. The knock on Sharp Lisa is speed. Her highest Beyer is 93, more than 10 points below the Santa Monica par.

Alphabet Kisses was also entered in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint Saturday and drew the inside post on Sunday. If she starts in the Santa Monica, she could keep Behaving Badly company up front. Miss Terrible has no early speed, but she can finish and enters with a 10-for-17 career record.

Also in the field are Nossa Concao, a 9-for-32 mare bred in Brazil; Awesome Lady, who won the off-the-turf Monrovia Handicap last out; Reforest, who returns from a 16-month layoff for trainer Bobby Frankel; and Allswellthatnswell, who has won 3 of 16.

The field

Santa Monica Handicap
Purse: $250,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 1

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1Alphabet KissesP. Valenzuela1199-2
2Miss TerribleG. Gomez1174-1
3Leave Me AloneK. Desormeaux1197-2
4Nossa CancaoO. Berrio11220-1
5Awesome LadyJ. Court11415-1
6ReforestJ. Valdivia Jr.11410-1
7AllswellthatnswellI. Enriquez 11230-1
8Behaving BadlyV. Espinoza1152-1
9Sharp LisaC. Nakatani1166-1

* Blinkers on: Alphabet Kisses
* Odds by Michael Hammersly