09/30/2004 11:00PM

Lining up for tickets to Texas

Island Fashion, the 120-pound highweight in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret, gallops Thursday at Santa Anita under exercise rider Jenny Jonsson.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Run well Sunday at Santa Anita, then make plans for the Breeders' Cup at Lone Star. It is that simple.

The Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup is bearing down, and the complexion of the Turf, Distaff, and Juvenile will be a lot more clear after three key California preps Sunday that will determine the West Coast contingent - the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch on turf, the Grade 2 Lady's Secret Handicap for fillies and mares, and the Grade 2 Norfolk for 2-year-olds.

By the time Roman Ruler races two turns as the overwhelming favorite in the $200,000 Norfolk (race 7) at 1 1/16 miles, handicappers may welcome the relief. That is because two preceding stakes - the Hirsch (race 5) and Lady's Secret (race 6) - do not get much tougher.

Bayamo and Star Over the Bay race 1 1/4 miles on grass in the $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship, and neither stands out. They face a good field that includes graded or group winners The Tin Man, Puerto Banus, Sarafan, Ballingarry, and Vangelis. The best race on the card is the $250,000 Lady's Secret, and it includes a vulnerable highweight.

Island Fashion returns from a four-month layoff in a race that will be her only prep for the $2 million BC Distaff. Obviously, there are bigger fish to fry than the Sunday stakes.

"We don't need to win this race, because we need to be 120 percent for the next one," said Island Fashion's trainer, Marcelo Polanco.

After four months off, Island Fashion probably needs a race.

"It's fair for anybody to say that, just by looking at her form," Polanco said, but added, "My expectations are she will run good."

Island Fashion has won 5 races and $1.4 million from 14 starts, but on Sunday her main rivals are racing fit.

The top contenders in the Lady's Secret include , the 2003 BC Distaff runner-up, who is stepping up off a confidence-building win against easier; Summer Wind Dancer, winner of back-to-back graded stakes; Royally Chosen, a sharp California-bred; and Miss Loren, upset winner of a Grade 2 at Del Mar.


After running well in last year's BC Distaff, Elloluv began the year with three straight sixth-place finishes.

"Her graded races this year have been dull, but she's had excuses," trainer Craig Dollase said.

Elloluv came out of a Dec. 27 effort with a minor hind-end injury. She grabbed a quarter July 10, and was hit in the eye with a dirt clod Aug. 8. Dollase dropped her in class into a restricted handicap on Sept. 2, and added blinkers.

"She looked like the old Elloluv," he said. "It seemed to wake her up. She's doing good, and we're gearing up for another trip to the Breeders' Cup."

Elloluv, 5 for 14 with earnings of $1.2 million, carries 118 pounds and should fall into a good trip just off the speed. Her last-start Beyer of 98 was her best figure in nearly a year.

Royally Chosen could have skipped the $250,000 Lady's Secret for the $150,000 California Cup Matron on Oct. 16, but according to trainer Bruce Headley, "I'm ready to race, and it's more money."

A winner of 5 races and $483,638 from 19 starts, Royally Chosen is not being considered for the BC Distaff. Even if she ran big?

"It would have to be really big," said Headley.

Among the logical contenders, Royally Chosen may be the best gamble.

"This is her home court," said Headley.

But if she gets embroiled in a pace duel, the race could set up for Summer Wind Dancer.

A gray stretch-runner, Summer Wind Dancer finished second behind Royally Chosen last year in the Cal Cup Matron. After successive wins by Summer Wind Dancer against Grade 3 and Grade 2 company, trainer Jeff Mullins hopes she earns a start in the Distaff by winning the Lady's Secret.

The field

Lady's Secret
Purse: $250,000; 1 1/16 miles; Grade 2

1Summer Wind DancerV. Espinoza1182-1
2a-Island FashionK. John1207-5
3a-Sister Girl BluesF. Martinez1097-5
4Royally ChosenD. Flores11510-1
5ElloluvC. Natatani1183-1
6Keys to the HeartG. Gomez11330-1
7Miss LorenJ. Court11610-1
8Barbara OrrT. Baze11210-1

* Odds by Art Gropper
* a-coupled: Island Fashion and Sister Girl Blues
* Television: Sunday, 6-7 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN