11/07/2003 12:00AM

Mandella's resume lacks this


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Richard Mandella enters the Sunday card at Santa Anita with an incomplete resume. Oh sure, Mandella won four Breeders' Cup races two weeks ago, and entered the Hall of Fame in 2001.

But in an oversight to a training career that spans nearly 30 years, Mandella has never won the Avigaition Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares that is the closing-day feature at Oak Tree. With a $70,000 purse, the race pales compared to the $4.5 million that Mandella runners earned on Breeders' Cup Day.

"It's not going to get any better than that," he said, "but we're looking forward to a good day [Sunday]."

Mandella will start Crazy Ensign and Dessert in the Avigaition, seeking a fitting conclusion to a fall meet in which his eight victories includes six graded stakes.

Mandella's most recent win was in the Breeders' Cup Classic with Pleasantly Perfect. He has started only three horses since.

This is the first Sunday in three weeks a stakes will be run at Santa Anita. The Avigaition fills in as the day's richest race for the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap, which was scrapped because of a purse cut. Seven fillies and mares entered the Avigaition, which will be run for the fourth time and the first since 1997.

In addition to the Mandella pair, the field includes Adalgisa, Garden in the Rain, Esmay, Go on Baby, and Innit.

Third in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon, Crazy Ensign is the 120-pound highweight. A 7-year-old mare, she has won 8 of 29 starts, and earned $519,067. Jockey Alex Solis rides Crazy Ensign, whose off-the-pace style complements her stablemate. "One filly will run on the lead, the other filly will come from behind," Mandella said.

Dessert, a half-sister to Mandella's BC Turf winner Johar, won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in her last start and was considered for the BC Filly and Mare Turf until she tied up early in the week and was not entered. "She's got some mental problems, and all the [Breeders' Cup] activity made her too tense, and she tied up on me," Mandella said

Dessert has "settled into a nice routine" since then, Mandella said, and he expects her to run her best race. A 3-year-old filly, she will be facing older stakes fillies for the first time. Corey Nakatani rides Dessert.