07/29/2004 12:00AM

New rider, same plan: Go for lead


DEL MAR, Calif. - Any doubts about the brilliance of were answered when she won the Flawlessly Stakes by five lengths at Hollywood Park on July 3. She bowled along through a decent pace and kicked clear.

The convincing victory makes Miss Vegas a strong favorite to win her sixth stakes in Saturday's $150,000 San Clemente Handicap over a mile on turf for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar.

The only change in trainer Bobby Frankel's strategy will be a new rider: David Flores replaces an injured Alex Solis, who suffered a cracked vertebra in a spill on July 23.

Flores will receive little instruction from Humberto Ascanio, Frankel's assistant, in advance of the Grade 2 San Clemente. It is clear that Miss Vegas is best on the lead.

"We're not going to get her to rate," Ascanio said. "I'm not worried about her. Nothing will change."

Ascanio might have been hinting at the results as well.

An Irish-bred filly, Miss Vegas won three sprint stakes in Italy last year. Bought last winter by Edmund Gann, Miss Vegas has been outstanding in two starts for Frankel.

Miss Vegas made her U.S. debut in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park on May 15. She led by two lengths to early stretch and held off a late run from Ticker Tape to win by a head. Ticker Tape returned to score an upset in the $750,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 3.

There are only four other entrants for the San Clemente: Bonaire, Shadow of Mine, Sweet Win, and Victory U. S. A. Bonaire, Sweet Win, and Victory U.S.A. are best from off the pace.

Bonaire could get close to Miss Vegas. A stakes winner in France last year, Bonaire was third in a turf sprint against older at Hollywood Park on July 15.

Sweet Win is making her stakes debut, having won 2 of 4 at Calder. She was recently acquired by Gayle Fogelson and sent to trainer Jeff Mullins.

Victory U. S. A. has raced with the top fillies of her generation. Third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall, she has won two seven-furlong stakes: the Moccasin at Hollywood Park last November and the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland in April.

"I'm trying her on the turf as an experiment," trainer Bob Baffert said. "She handled it all right when she worked on it. Going to the turf for the first time, you don't know what kind of race she'll have. She might stop and graze."