06/05/2003 12:00AM

Plenty of Honeymoon threats


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Rutters Renegade finished a sharp second when she made her United States debut in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park on May 17.

Normally, that sort of performance would make her a leading contender for Saturday's $200,000 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap, but this year it's not that simple.

The Grade 2 Honeymoon, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf for 3-year-old fillies, has drawn a deep field, with several runners capable of winning the stakes, which serves as an important prep for the $750,000 American Oaks on July 5.

Rutters Renegade fits in that category as do Atlantic Ocean, Gotdream, Major Idea, and Star Vega, to name a few contenders.

Gary Mandella trains Rutters Renegade. Racing in Britain last year, she won 3 of 8 starts, beating males in each victory. In the Senorita over a mile on turf, she closed to within 1 1/2 lengths of race winner Makeup Artist.

"The good news is she gets more ground [in the Honeymoon]," Mandella said. "The bad news is that it's tougher fillies."

Star Vega may go favored. Trained by Jim Cassidy, Star Vega won the Providencia Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf in her last start April 13 at Santa Anita. Like Rutters Renegade, Star Vega is a closer.

Shapes and Shadows and Major Idea, third and fourth in the Senorita, can win with top efforts. Shapes and Shadows, who was third in the Providencia, is likely to be on the lead. Major Idea will be attempting to end a two-race losing streak. In the Senorita, she had trouble on the final turn, and could not recover, losing by three lengths.

Atlantic Ocean and Gotdream will be near the pace. Atlantic Ocean won the Miesque Stakes over a mile on this turf course last year, and later won the Sunshine Millions Oaks on dirt for California-breds and Florida-breds at Santa Anita in January.

Trained by Bob Baffert, she has lost her two most recent starts, finishing second to Lady Tak in the Fair Grounds Oaks and ninth in the Kentucky Oaks on May 2.

"She didn't run at all," Baffert said of the Kentucky Oaks. "We'll keep her on the grass for now."

Gotdream represents trainer Bobby Frankel, who won the 2002 Honeymoon with Megahertz. Gotdream is making her first start since winning the Hidden Light Stakes at Santa Anita last October. Despite the break, she remains a concern for Mandella.

"Layoffs don't matter," Mandella warned. "Bobby's horses fire."