02/26/2003 12:00AM

Luvah Girl: New trainer, new style

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Luvah Girl, a graded stakes winner in England last fall, will drop in class when she makes her American debut in Friday's $100,000 La Habra Stakes at Santa Anita.

Last October, Luvah Girl concluded her English campaign with a front-running victory in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket. Following that race, she was transferred to trainer Jenine Sahadi at Santa Anita by owner Gary Barber and the Team Valor Syndicate.

In the La Habra, for 3-year-old fillies at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course, Luvah Girl does not face strong opposition. Aside from Luvah Girl, the only other stakes winner in the field is Mac Melody, who won a listed stakes in Italy last year but has been unplaced in four starts in this country.

In England, Luvah Girl led or contested the lead in all five of her starts, including runner-up finishes in two stakes at Ascot - the Albany and Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes.

Sahadi wants no part of those front-running tactics in the La Habra, which has drawn 14 entrants.

"That's not my plan," she said. "In her works, I put her in behind another horse and she finished up good."

Mike Smith rides Luvah Girl, who is likely to stalk an early pace set by Himalayan, Point Clear, and Just Too Too. Point Clear has won her last two starts - a maiden race on Dec. 28 and an optional claimer on Jan. 29 - but has never run on turf.

Several fillies in the field have turf experience. No Kings was third in the Blue Norther Handicap on Jan. 8. Oneexcessivenite won an optional claimer at 27-1 over this course on Jan. 30. Favola won 2 of 7 starts in minor races on the turf in England last year, but was overmatched in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes on dirt on Feb. 9, finishing last of six in her American debut.

Trainer James Cassidy starts an entry of Bond Midnight and Katdogawn, both of whom were acquired in England last fall. Bond Midnight was seventh behind Oneexcessivenite on Jan. 30, while Katdogawn will be making her U.S. debut. Katdogawn has one win in five starts and is likely to be close to the pace, Cassidy said.

"She wants to get on with the program," Cassidy said.

Plenty of speed could help Luvah Girl, who may be in an ideal spot to win her first start in this country.

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