12/12/2006 1:00AM

Mullins has a starlet in Mystic Soul


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Through Sunday, trainer Jeff Mullins had 17 wins at the Hollywood Park fall meeting, good enough for third in the standings behind Doug O'Neill and John Sadler, who were tied with 20.

With the meeting ending on Monday, Mullins would theoretically have time to catch the leading pair, but he says that is not his focus for the final days. He says he will not "throw the barn" at the entries in an attempt to take the lead. Instead, Mullins is hoping to end the meeting with a victory in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes on Sunday with Mystic Soul.

"I can't get those guys," Mullins said. "They have too many horses."

Mullins has 80 horses in training - 60 at Hollywood Park and 20 at Fairplex Park. Few are as promising as Mystic Soul.

Never worse than third in three starts, Mystic Soul made her first start for Mullins and owners Rancho San Miguel and Turf Express Inc. when she finished a game second in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at a mile on turf on Nov. 25. Previously, she had won a $75,000 claiming race for maidens and finished second in the Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park before being acquired privately.

In the Miesque, Mystic Soul broke from the outside in a field of 12. She was third for the first half-mile, moved closer to the leaders on the final turn, took the lead in early stretch, and was beaten three-quarters of a length by Valbenny.

Mullins is hoping that different tactics can be employed in the Grade 1 Starlet, which is run at 1 1/16 miles on Hollywood Park's synthetic track.

"I think post position played a lot," Mullins said of the Miesque. "I think she needs to be covered up, settle down, and make one run. She was in the clear the whole way. I thought she ran an awesome race."

Switching surfaces does not concern Mullins since Mystic Soul has worked on the synthetic track in recent weeks.

"She loves it," Mullins said.

Hucking Hot may be supplemented to Starlet

Mystic Soul will face a large field in the Starlet, which has an estimated purse of $450,000.

The probable starters include the stakes winners Mistical Plan, Quick Little Miss, Romance Is Diane, and Runway Rosie, as well as Baroness Thatcher, Hucking Hot, Betrluckythangood, Down, She's Included, and Super Freaky.

Hucking Hot is not a confirmed starter, and must be supplemented when entries are taken on Thursday. Monday at Hollywood Park, Hucking Hot worked five furlongs in 1:01.40.

Hucking Hot is owned by a partnership led by Jim Ford. The filly won the Hidden Light Stakes on turf in her U.S. debut in October. In England last spring, she finished second in a maiden race on the all-weather track at Wolverhampton.

Trainer Paddy Gallagher said, "I talked to the owners, and we're going to take a look at it. She seems well."

Starter allowance conditions a hot topic

A dispute over the conditions of starter allowance races for the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting has led to their omission from the first condition book of the meeting, which begins on Dec. 26.

The issue is expected to be discussed by the Thoroughbred Owners of California's board of directors later this week and is likely to be resolved in coming days.

The debate centers on whether to allow winners of maiden special weight races to run in starter allowance races, which are typically restricted to winners of maiden claiming races who have not won two races.

Earlier this year at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, starter allowance races were open to horses who had started for a claiming price of $40,000 and had not won two races. The terms meant that maiden special weight winners were eligible as long as they had started for $40,000 or less in their careers.

Those conditions were enacted at the Oak Tree meeting as an experiment, track officials said.

The winners of maiden special weight races typically face tougher competition than maiden claimers face.

At the current Hollywood Park meeting, the conditions read that the starter allowance races are restricted to horses "which have broken their maidens for a claiming price of $40,000 or less" and have not won two races.

Because there are hundreds of maiden claimers in Southern California, the conditions of the starter allowance races are important to owners and trainers who do not want to start their horses in a more difficult open claiming race.

Santa Anita's racing secretary, Rick Hammerle, said the issue "is under discussion. Hopefully we'll get a resolution as soon as possible. We want to let the horsemen know."

He did say that starter allowance races could be included in the opening days of the meeting as extras races printed on the overnight.

Drew Couto, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said his board would discuss the matter, including how the races should be written or whether both conditions should be offered. He said that the board is likely to consider a year-round resolution.

"We want to do what is best for the [year-round racing] program, not what is best for one meet at a time," he said. "It's our purse money, and there are the issues that go into a purse agreement."

Siren Lure being given a breather

Siren Lure, the winner of three graded stakes earlier this year, is being rested for a 2007 campaign that is likely to start in the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs at Santa Anita on Feb. 17, trainer Art Sherman said.

"I think seven-eighths is his best distance," Sherman said.

Siren Lure finished second in the Vernon Underwood Stakes on Dec. 3 in his most recent start. Earlier this year, his campaign was highlighted by wins in the Los Angeles, Triple Bend, and Pat O'Brien handicaps.