03/20/2003 12:00AM

Megahertz: Reversal of fortune?

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A soft turf course, a top-class stablemate, and a pesky arch rival have kept Megahertz out of the winner's circle since July.

None of those factors will be present Saturday, when Megahertz starts as the favorite in the $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap at Santa Anita.

Megahertz has won 5 of 8 starts since arriving from France. She has two major stakes wins: the Honeymoon Handicap last June and the American Oaks last July, after Dublino was disqualified from first to second for interference in the stretch.

Since that race, Megahertz has lost all three of her starts. She was second by a nose to Dublino in a thrilling running of the Del Mar Oaks, sixth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland (on a turf course trainer Bobby Frankel insists she did not like), and second to stablemate Tates Creek in the San Gorgonio Handicap in January.

"She's never ran a bad race," Frankel said. "She didn't like the soft turf at Keeneland."

With Dublino and Tates Creek not expected to return until later this year, Megahertz has every chance to beat older fillies and mares for the first time in the Santa Ana, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Of the seven that oppose Megahertz, the main threats are Garden in the Rain, the runner-up in the Buena Vista Handicap; the Frankel-trained Glia, who won the Pebbles Handicap last fall at Belmont Park; and Noches de Rosa and Snowflake, the first two finishers of the Reloy Handicap on Jan. 31.

Glia is making her first start on turf this year. She finished sixth on Jan. 19 in the El Encino Stakes on the main track, a race Frankel has dismissed.

Garden in the Rain was claimed for $50,000 last October by Richard Englander and trainer Jeff Mullins. She won an optional claimer on Jan. 29 and finished second to Final Destination in the one-mile Buena Vista Handicap on Feb. 17.

Noches de Rosa and Snowflake are dropping back in distance, following the Reloy over 1 1/4 miles.

The Reloy Handicap was Noches de Rosa's first stakes win in the United States. In South America, she won the Group 1 Chilean Oaks over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

"I wish the race was a mile and a quarter," trainer Richard Mandella said. "But in her own country, she won over six furlongs on the grass. I think she's gotten better as we've gone on."

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