12/11/2002 1:00AM

One star is rising as another fades


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A young filly with a promising future and an older gelding whose best races may be behind him start in two allowance races at Hollywood Park on Friday.

Secret Garden, a stakes winner in Europe in October, makes her first start on turf in this country in the seventh race. She finished second over a wet-fast track in the Matiara Stakes here on Nov. 9 in her U.S. debut.

In the sixth race, Freedom Crest, the winner of the 2001 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, starts for a price of $80,000 in an optional claimer over seven furlongs. He is attempting to end a five-race losing streak.

Secret Garden may go favored in a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Owned by Robert Sangster, Secret Garden was intended to start on turf in the Matiara Stakes, but rain forced the race to the main track. Since that race, Simon Bray has trained Secret Garden.

"This race will tell us a lot where she is at," Bray said. "I want to use it to see where we can go with her. The goal is to get her a graded stakes win."

In England, Secret Garden won the October Stakes over a straightaway seven furlongs at Ascot. She won over a mile and 70 yards in England, but was beaten four lengths by Sentimental Value in the Matiara Stakes over 1 1/8 miles.

"On paper, this looks like a perfect spot," Bray said of Friday's race. "I thought she ran extremely well in her last race, it was probably a little too far for her. I think she's best at a mile."

Secret Garden faces seven others. Her toughest competition comes from Calzada Kid, who was fourth in the California Cup Distaff on Nov. 2; La Vita e Bella, who was third at this level on Nov. 21; and recent allowance race winners Dena's Diamond and Lost Message.

Freedom Crest has had a poor year. In four starts, the 6-year-old finished third in the San Bernardino Handicap and was unplaced in three other stakes. Friday's race will be the first time he has appeared for a claiming price since he won a $40,000 claiming race for maidens in December 1999.

Considering his poor form, many bettors will overlook Freedom Crest in favor of the durable Bluesthestandard, a winner of 6 of 12 starts this year, or the improving Olmodavor, who is trained by Richard Mandella.

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