05/08/2003 11:00PM

Pedroza rates his filly highly


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Margin of victory is relative to the competition, which is why trainer Cliff Sise will not be oversold on the six-length maiden win by Astra's Sister. "It was a pretty bad group she was in against," Sise said.

The competition strengthens Sunday at Hollywood Park, where Sise starts Astra's Sister and Speak the Language in the $75,000-added Nursery Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Nine entered the five-furlong sprint, which is curiously positioned as the last race on the nine-race card. Nursery entrants include Wacky Patty, who raced 4 1/2 furlongs in a quick 51.63 seconds in her debut; Yogi's Polar Bear, runner-up in a Keeneland maiden race; and four others who won two-furlong maiden races at Santa Anita.

Astra's Sister did not run particularly fast winning a $40,000 maiden claimer in her second start. Her time for 4 1/2 furlongs (52.67) was more than a second slower than Wacky Patty ran a week later, and .72 of a second slower than Dirty Diana ran early on the card. But following the romp by Astra's Sister, jockey Martin Pedroza told Sise: "This filly would have beaten [Dirty Diana]."

Although speed handicappers may quarrel with Pedroza, there were reasons to like the win by Astra's Sister. Pedroza never moved on her, she won geared down, and enters the Nursery with sufficient time (17 days) between starts. A small-sized filly by Candi's Gold, Astra's Sister is a full sister to claiming-caliber winners A Lil Sweet, Swedish Sights, Tour Pure, and Fleur De Lil. Owned and bred by Halo Farms, Astra's Sister has "done everything right going into the race," Sise said.

A confident Pedroza rides her back.

The Nursery favorite will be Wacky Patty, whose 2 1/2-length debut victory is the fastest of 11 races this meet at 4 1/2 furlongs. Owned and trained by Jim Chapman, Wacky Patty appears to have more quality than a typical speed-crazy 2-year-old. As such, her presence in the Nursery is puzzling. The daughter of Formal Dinner is jammed back in 11 days instead of waiting to make her second start June 8 in the $75,000 Cinderella Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs.

The bottom line is simple - Wacky Patty and jockey Corey Nakatani can win the Nursery if the filly runs as fast as she did in her first start. Otherwise, the Nursery has the name of Astra's Sister written all over it.

Yogi's Polar Bear enters the Nursery off a second-place finish at Keeneland, while Speak the Language has always trained like a filly who wants farther than two furlongs.