07/21/2005 12:00AM

Mabee favorite not invincible

Unlike John Mabee Handicap favorite Intercontinental, Ticker Tape (center) has already proven she can handle 1 1/8 miles on turf.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Just when it seemed that Island Fashion's career had taken a turn for the worse, she nearly pulled an upset at 14-1 in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 3.

Later that day, Ticker Tape overcame trouble to finish a game second to Intercontinental in the Grade 3 Royal Heroine Stakes on turf.

Those performances encouraged their respective trainers to think that can give Intercontinental fits in Saturday's $400,000 John Mabee Handicap at Del Mar.

, trained by Bobby Frankel for Juddmonte Farms, is a deserving favorite in the Grade 1 Mabee, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf for fillies and mares. Intercontinental, 5, has been a model of consistency since arriving from France in late 2003, winning 6 of 9 starts. This year, Intercontinental has won 2 of 3 starts, including the Grade 3 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland. She finished second in the Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park in June.

But unlike Island Fashion and Ticker Tape, Intercontinental is unproven over the distance. Intercontinental has raced primarily from a mile to 1 1/16 miles. In her only appearance over 1 1/8 miles on turf, Intercontinental finished fifth in the Grade 1 Diana Handicap last summer at Saratoga over a yielding course that Frankel has said she did not like.

Trainer Jim Cassidy, who trains Ticker Tape, is banking that Intercontinental will be tested over 1 1/8 miles. "Hopefully, I'm correct about distance limitations with her, but that's his business," he said, referring to Frankel.

In the one-mile Royal Heroine, Intercontinental rallied from fifth to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Ticker Tape. On the final turn of that race, Ticker Tape was stuck in traffic. The trouble probably did not keep her from winning, just finishing closer to a brilliant Intercontinental.

"There was a little trouble," Cassidy said. "He had to wait a little while. I think she needed the race."

Cassidy considers the Mabee to be a prep for the $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 13 for Ticker Tape.

Ticker Tape is winless in three starts since the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland last October. Last summer, she finished second by a nose to Amorama in the Del Mar Oaks.

Amorama is one of eight entrants in the Mabee, and is seeking to end a five-race losing streak dating back to the Del Mar Oaks. Trained by Julio Canani, Amorama was third in the Grade 1 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park May 30.

Island Fashion was a dismal eighth in the Gamely, her third consecutive loss by double-digit lengths. Understandably, bettors dismissed her in the Vanity and watched her finish only a head behind the 3-year-old Splendid Blended.

Though she lost, the race was a relief to trainer Marcelo Polanco. Island Fashion, who ran second against males in the 2004 Santa Anita Handicap, had run her first creditable race since a second in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita in January.

"She showed me that she's back," Polanco said of the Vanity. "I didn't have any luck in the winter with the rain and a quarter crack. There were a lot of days we couldn't train, but I'm not trying to give excuses."

Island Fashion is one of the few top-class mares who have run well on both turf and dirt. She finished fourth, beaten a length, in the 2003 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Because of her poor recent races, she carries 116 pounds in the Mabee Handicap, six fewer than Intercontinental, the starting highweight at 122 pounds.

"I think she will like this firm course," Polanco said. "The filly of Frankel's is the one we have to beat. I have weight on my side."

The field

John C. Mabee Handicap
Purse: $400,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

1IntercontinentalA. Solis1223-5
2AmoramaM. Pedroza11512-1
3Ticker TapeK. Desormeaux1184-1
4SmokegetenyoureyeT. Baze11050-1
5WinendynmeC. Nakatani1155-1
6UraibJ. Court11430-1
7Island FashionP. Valenzuela11610-1
8Halo OlaJ. Valdivia Jr.11420-1

* Odds by Art Gropper
* Television: Saturday, 7-8 p.m., Eastern; ESPN