04/14/2004 11:00PM

Mind your manners, Megahertz

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Erratic behavior in the stretch cost Megahertz dearly in the Santa Ana Handicap last month. As she swooped to the lead, Megahertz drifted in and bothered several members of the field. She was promptly disqualified from first and placed last.

When returns in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita, trainer Bobby Frankel expects her to display better manners. Alex Solis has regained the mount from Victor Espinoza after missing the Santa Ana to ride Pleasantly Perfect to victory in the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

"Alex knows her and he's always looking out for her," Frankel said.

Owned by Michael Bello, Megahertz is the 121-pound topweight in the Santa Barbara, as she attempts to win the race for the second consecutive year. She is trying to join Astra (2001-02) as the only two-time winner.

The Santa Barbara field lacks depth.

The field for the 1 1/4-mile turf race does not include the major stakes winners Dimitrova or Meridiana, who earlier in the week were expected to start.

Dimitrova, unraced since finishing last in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf last October, showed the presence of mucus in an examination earlier this week, trainer Neil Drysdale said.

Meridiana, the winner of the Orchid Handicap at Gulfstream Park last month, will start in the Bewitch Stakes on April 21, trainer Christophe Clement said.

Megahertz has drawn post 2 and has five opponents - Bartok's Blithe, Mandela, Noches de Rosa, Star Vega, and Uraib. Frankel also trains Mandela, a German-bred filly who won an allowance race on March 4 and was placed fourth in the Santa Ana.

is winless in seven starts dating back to the 2003 Providencia Stakes here. She is adding blinkers and could be close to the front early, trainer Jim Cassidy said.

"We won't stay back with Megahertz and try to run with her," Cassidy said.

Star Vega has trained in blinkers since finishing sixth in the Hillsborough Handicap at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11.

"The blinkers have helped a whole lot," Cassidy said. "I've seen a big change in the filly. She'll get the trip."

Noches de Rosa won the 2003 Santa Ana and was third behind Megahertz in last year's Santa Barbara Handicap. She returned from a 10-month layoff on March 28 to finish fourth in an allowance race on turf.

Noches de Rosa's trainer, Richard Mandella, likes the distance but is not happy with the competition.

"My filly should like the mile and a quarter," he said. "Megahertz is a monster."