04/23/2003 11:00PM

Melair looks overloaded with speed


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Caesar Dominguez admits that Long Term Wish looks, acts, and performs like a late-running sprinter. So what's she doing in the $200,000 Melair Stakes, racing around two turns at 1 1/16 miles?

"It's not the strongest field, and they're all going to be gunning," Dominguez said.

He believes her jockey, Alex Solis, will have her relaxed. "There's going to be lots of speed, and she will come running," Dominguez said.

He is right about one thing - the Melair is filled with speed.

A field of 12 entered the stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and Long Term Wish - owned and bred by Golden Eagle Farm - is taking one of the biggest class drops in racing into a stakes with nothing but heat. She trailed the field in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, but she does have a chance against restricted company in the Melair. "There's a big difference between open company and Cal-breds," Dominguez said.

The Melair (race 9) might be the most wide-open race on the Gold Rush card. The field includes two horses who have won around two turns - Amber Hills, front-running winner of the California Oaks at Golden Gate on March 15, and Ela Ela, runner-up in the Sunland Oaks on March 29.

Most of the others are sprinters trying to stay two turns for a fat purse.

As Aclevershadeofjade's trainer Doug O'Neill admitted: "We're taking a shot. She trains like she'll route, she has a nice long stride, and in her works she never gets tired."

Wishful thinking perhaps, but can you blame him? After all, the Melair was won last year by Ladylore, who was stepping up from a $32,000 maiden claimer. This year, the race figures to be won by a filly who can stay, because the pace is sure to be severe. Run Rebecca Run and Princess V., possibly the two fastest fillies in the field, are drawn in posts 11 and 12. Valentine Dancer, Just By Chance, and Oneexcessivenite add to a jammed pace scenario. Longshots are Bartok's Blithe, Fatal Caper, and Tricky Surfer.

Amber Hills has raced a route of ground three times, winning twice. Trained by Ed Moger, Amber Hills romped last fall in the Black Swan Stakes at Fairplex Park, then had a tough trip in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies. Off from November to February, she scored an 11-1 upset last time and figures to tuck into a good trip right behind the pace. Owned by Curt and Lila Lanning, Amber Hills has won three of nine starts.

Ela Ela has won 2 of 6, and has improved for trainer Rafael Becerra since stretching out two starts back. Her chances are complicated by the pace scenario, however. She has set the pace in both routes, but the front end is likely to be a crowded place Saturday.

Princess V is the high-figure filly in the race, having earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure winning her comeback in a Cal-bred allowance. A 2-for-2 Memo filly, Princess V is stuck on the far outside, however, with nothing but speed to her inside. It is the same dilemma facing Run Rebecca Run, whose trainer Bob Baffert said, "If there was a 3-year-old [sprint], I would have done that."