12/05/2003 12:00AM

Perfect spot for Adoration

Adoration wins the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita in October. She'll face a far easier task in Sunday's $150,000 Bayakoa.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Adoration is taking a massive pay cut to start in Sunday's $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park.

But then there are not many races as rich as the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff, which Adoration won in a 40-1 upset in her last start on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

Instead of giving Adoration a rest and pointing for major stakes early in 2004, owners John and Jerry Amerman and trainer David Hofmans opted for a start in the Grade 2 Bayakoa, run over 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares.

Hofmans said the timing is ideal. Adoration has had a six-week break since the Breeders' Cup, and her next major goal is the Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 16.

"She's very fresh coming off that race," Hofmans said of the Distaff. "Most of the important fillies are taking a break."

Adoration is the 121-pound topweight in the Bayakoa. Her leading opponents are Bare Necessities, a four-time stakes winner this year; Angel Gift, the winner of the minor Golden Poppy Handicap at Bay Meadows on Oct. 18; and Summer Wind Dancer, the runner-up in the California Cup Matron at Santa Anita on Nov. 8.

Another entrant, longshot Keys to the Heart has run well at Hollywood Park. She won the Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap in April, but was well beaten in the Milady and Vanity handicaps against Azeri in late spring.

Bare Necessities was third in the Vanity in her lone start at Hollywood Park this year. Trained by Wally Dollase for Iron County Farms, she won the Gardenia Handicap at Ellis Park in August, her most recent start.

Adoration will be heavily favored in the Bayakoa. She is best when racing near the front and might have little company on the lead. One likely early threat is Star Parade, who has won two allowance races since arriving from Argentina in the spring.

In the Breeders' Cup Distaff at 1 1/8 miles, Adoration led throughout under Patrick Valenzuela, and won by 4 1/2 lengths. When she won the one-mile Piedra Foundation Handicap at Del Mar in August, she stalked the pace to the final turn and won by a nose.

"She's good at that, and she's good racing up close," Hofmans said. "She resents being taken back."

Ideally, Hofmans and the Amermans would like to see Adoration pad her record in the Bayakoa as a conclusion to a surprisingly successful season. There is not likely to be much in her way.