06/29/2004 11:00PM

Oaks attracts worldwide cast

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Japanese filly Dance in the Mood has been installed as the track program's 9-2 favorite for Saturday's American Oaks.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It took only two runnings for the American Oaks to curry enough favor and respect that it was rewarded with a Grade 1 ranking. How this year's race will compare to previous runnings, which were won by subsequent stars Megahertz and Dimitrova, probably will not be known for several months. Yet this year's race already has reached a new high in at least one category, that of international representation.

Fillies from Australia, France, Ireland, Japan, and New Zealand make up a significant portion of the 14-horse field that was entered on Wednesday for Saturday's $750,000 American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles on Hollywood Park's turf. The Japanese runner, Dance in the Mood, was installed as the tepid 9-2 favorite on the track's morning line.

The American Oaks was the brainchild of Hollywood Park's racing secretary, Martin Panza, who was looking for a way to generate new interest in the meet. He believed a long-distance grass race for 3-year-old fillies was the one subsection with a chance to be exploited in early July. Full fields of good horses whose owners are eager to bring them from around the world have been testament to his prescience.

"It's hard to judge the quality of this year's race," Panza said Wednesday at a post-position draw for the American Oaks. "It'll be easier to look back in six months. But we've got four horses from overseas who came specifically for this race and are going home afterwards, so from that standpoint it's getting stronger."

, a daughter of Sunday Silence, has won 4 of 5 starts. She completed her serious training for the Oaks on Wednesday morning at Hollywood with an easy half-mile breeze in 53.40 seconds on the main track. She drew well, landing post 6.

French Lady, a recent arrival from Australia, also worked. She breezed a half-mile in 50.40 seconds on the firm turf course. French Lady is remaining in this country after the race. Her new trainer, Neil Drysdale, said she will get a lengthy break in order to fully acclimate.

Mambo Slew, who won the Miesque on this course last fall and most recently won the Sands Point at Belmont, arrived from New York on Wednesday afternoon. Also on that plane were Eternal Melody, a native of New Zealand who is now trained by Bobby Frankel, and Western Ransom, who won Pimlico's Hilltop Stakes in May for trainer Michael Dickinson.

Mambo Slew, the 5-1 second choice, drew post 2.