07/11/2001 11:00PM

Oaks is star time for Affluent, Collect Call

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When Collect Call and Affluent met three times in major stakes in the spring, they were supporting players who could do no better than finish second, third, or fourth.

In Saturday's $150,000 Hollywood Oaks at Hollywood Park, they are the leading players in what is essentially a match race. Three other fillies will make their stakes debuts in the Grade 2 Oaks, run over 1 1/8 miles on dirt. A victory from Katy Kat (an allowance race winner at Churchill Downs), Bartley (a claimer), or Secret of Mecca (a maiden) would qualify as an upset.

Affluent and Collect Call will not be far apart. Bartley, who won an $80,000 claimer on turf in May, is likely to lead, but will be pressed by Katy Kat, an 11-length winner at Churchill Downs on June 8.

Collect Call, third in the Kentucky Oaks in her last start, will be near the pace. Af fluent, who led in the Princess Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on June 16 before fading to finish third behind Starrer and Love at Noon, can be close, but is probably best with a target, trainer Ron McAnally said.

"She set the pace [in the Princess Stakes], which was a surprise," McAnally said. "This is not her best distance, but it depends on the competition, too. Usually in a match race, you want to be in front."

Affluent and Collect Call met twice at Santa Anita earlier this year, finishing third and fourth behind Golden Ballet in both the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks. In the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Collect Call was second, with Affluent fourth.

Since then, Affluent has won an allowance race on turf and started in the Princess. She seeks her first stakes win in the Oaks.

"I keep trying to get more weight on her," McAnally said. "She can't run too often or work too often."

Collect Call was beaten 5 1/4 lengths by Flute in the Kentucky Oaks and then was held out of the recent Honeymoon Handicap after she suffered a training setback in June.

"We could have run on turf, but she wasn't quite ready," trainer Christopher Paasch said. "Her foot was a little sore."

Paasch, who will try for a stakes double on Saturday when Fair Apache starts in the Valkyr Handicap, is hoping Collect Call can win her first stakes since she pulled an upset in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 6.

"She's never been worse than fourth," Paasch said. "She shows up every time."