04/14/2005 11:00PM

Megahertz big favorite to three-peat

Benoit & Associates
Megahertz returns after rallying from far back to win the Santa Ana.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The partnership of Alex Solis and Megahertz can make Santa Anita history on Sunday.

For the third consecutive year, Solis will ride Megahertz in the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap, going for an unprecedented third victory in the meeting's championship race for older fillies and mares on turf.

will be heavily favored to win the 11th stakes of her career. Bettors have grown accustomed to seeing Solis and Megahertz in the winner's circle. Since Megahertz arrived at trainer Bobby Frankel's stable in late 2001, she has won 9 of 16 starts with Solis aboard.

"Alex has confidence in her and doesn't beat her up," Frankel said.

The diminutive Megahertz has a trademark style of rallying from well off the pace. When she won the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap here on March 20, she was 11 lengths off the front at the end of the backstretch and won by a measured half-length over Katdogawn.

Solis was aboard for that race. Solis knows he can regularly rely on Megahertz's turn of foot.

"She's such a good filly, I just try to get along with her," Solis said. "I leave her alone and don't force her. She does the rest."

There should be solid pace for Megahertz to follow in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara. Midwife, a front-runner who won the Palo Alto Handicap at Bay Meadows last October, runs in the longest race of her career. Midwife is likely to lead early under Garrett Gomez.

The field of seven also includes the 2005 stakes winners and Uraib, as well as Moscow Burning, the 2004 California-bred horse of the year. Hoh Buzzard was fourth in the Santa Ana Handicap and won the Brown Bess Handicap at Golden Gate Fields in January.

won the Hermosa Beach Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Hollywood Park last November and the Grade 3 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on a muddy track here in February. She was ninth in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap on March 12.

The distance is ideal for Moscow Burning, who won the 2004 Sheepshead Bay Handicap over 1 3/8 miles at Belmont Park.

Trainer Ben Cecil is hoping that Hoh Buzzard can be near of the pace, which would help her chances for an upset.

"She's got to hit the front because she's tough to get by," Cecil said. "Hopefully, she'll be close to the pace. I'll certainly be disappointed if she's not second. I'd also be happy to be second to Megahertz."