02/26/2007 12:00AM

Oft-beaten choice favored again


ARCADIA, Calif. - Naughty Rafaela was a Group 1 winner on turf in Brazil in 2005. So far in this country she has been mostly a money-burner, winless in her first four starts.

In the last five months, Naughty Rafaela has finished third, fifth, second, and third. She has started at odds of 5-2 or lower in each start, going off as the favorite twice.

Naughty Rafaela will be favored again when she starts in a $59,000 allowance race at 1o1/4 miles on turf on Wednesday at Santa Anita. The race could lead to her graded-stakes debut in the U.S. in April.

A winner of 2 of 9 starts, Naughty Rafaela, 5, finished third in her most recent start, the La Zanzara Handicap at 1o1/4 miles on turf here on Feb.o1. Sent off as the 9-5 second choice, Naughty Rafaela was fifth at the eighth pole and closed through the final furlong to finish 1 1/4 lengths behind race winner Solva.

If she wins on Wednesday, a race such as the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap on April 21 becomes a possibility.

Trained by Bobby Frankel for TNT Stud, Naughty Rafaela is one of five entrants in Wednesday's allowance race. She will have little pace to follow. Exclusive Danielle, who drew the rail, has shown speed in some starts. The others - Dancing General, Fortunate Event, and Fantastic New Way - run from off the pace.

Exclusive Danielle makes only her fourth start in the past year; she was fifth in the La Zanzara.

Dancing General and Fortunate Event are California-breds that ran on Sunshine Millions Day, Jan. 27.

Dancing General ran fourth in the Sunshine Millions Distaff here. She was second in the 2005 California Cup Distance Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Fortunate Event, winner of an allowance race on turf here Jan. 10, finished ninth in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park

Fantastic New Way is making her first start outside the Midwest. Unraced since June, she has been in training with Jeff Mullins at Hollywood Park. Mullins said he would prefer to start Fantastic New Way in a shorter race than 1 1/4 miles, but worries that such a race might not fill in the near future.

"We wanted to run her a flat mile," he said. "She's all right. She's got some talent."