04/02/2003 12:00AM

Nanogram attempts to snap skid


ARCADIA, Calif. - The seventh race at Santa Anita Friday, a $57,000 optional claimer on the hillside turf course, resembles a consolation for fillies and mares eligible to Saturday's Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap.

Five of the eight entrants in Friday's race were nominated for the Las Cienegas, but seem better suited to the conditions of this optional claimer, restricted to fillies and mares eligible for the second allowance condition or to be claimed for $80,000.

Nanogram and Polygreen, a French import, will be well backed at the betting windows. The 6-year-old Nanogram is winless in her last 14 starts, dating back to an allowance race on the hillside turf course in April 2001. During the losing streak, she has twice placed in the Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap, finishing second in 2001 and third in 2002.

Nanogram has finished second or third in her last five starts, including an optional claiming race on the hillside course Feb. 23.

There will be plenty of pace in Friday's race to help stalkers such as Nanogram and closers such as Polygreen.

Walts Wharf is a confirmed front-runner. The 5-year-old mare finished sixth in the Buena Vista Handicap at one mile on turf in February, and sixth again in a one-mile allowance race March 7.

Vital Asset makes her turf debut after showing speed in four starts on the main track.

Two runners make their first start in the country, while two others have started once in the United States.

American Jewel, making her U.S. debut, previously raced in New Zealand, where she won 2 of 10 starts. Sandy Shulman trains the 5-year-old mare.

Roundtree, also making her first U.S. start, raced in England last year and is now trained by Neil Drysdale. The 4-year-old filly finished second in the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes last year, but only 11th of 17 in the English 1000 Guineas. A victory Friday would end a five-race losing streak dating back to an allowance race last June.

Polygreen and Red Opal ran well in their United States debuts. Polygreen finished fourth in the Grade 3 Athenia Handicap at Aqueduct last November. In France last year, she won a minor stakes race and placed in two other stakes.

Red Opal won her only start for trainer John Sadler, a $62,500 claiming race on the hillside turf course Feb. 2. Sent off at 11-1, she rallied from fifth to catch Sweetcakesanshakes, who returned to win her next start.

Because of Red Opal's February win and the presence of leading rider Patrick Valenzuela, Red Opal will be a much shorter price Friday.

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