02/28/2005 1:00AM

Polyfirst back off striking win


ARCADIA, Calif. - Polyfirst began her American career with an impressive win in an allowance race on Santa Anita's hillside turf course on Jan. 22.

If can do the same against a tougher field in Wednesday's fifth race, she could earn a trip to the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap on April 10.

Trainer Richard Mandella said it was too soon to talk about the Las Cienegas, but he did not hesitate to praise Polyfirst for her debut win.

"I like the way she ran down the hill the other day," Mandella said. "I'd like to see her do that again."

Owned by the Wertheimer family, Polyfirst ran second or third in five stakes in France last year. The races ranged in distance from about a mile to about 1 1/4 miles on turf.

In her first start for Mandella, Polyfirst had no trouble adapting to the shorter distance of about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. After a slow start, she rallied from seventh to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Four of the seven in Wednesday's race have European roots. Fortunately and Megec Blis won or placed in stakes overseas, but are winless in this country. is making her U.S. debut. She won a maiden race over 1 1/2 miles at Catterick, England, last September.

Fortunately is well-suited to the distance, even though she is winless in her last eight starts. The winner of the Dragon Stakes over five furlongs on turf in England in 2003, Fortunately finished fourth in an allowance race on the hillside turf course on Feb. 2. She was third in the La Habra Stakes on the hillside last year.

surely will attract support. Trained by John Sadler, Quatrain has not started since finishing third as the favorite in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Del Mar last September.

Cousineau is the only filly other than Polyfirst with a win over the course. Cousineau, winless in her last three races, beat maidens on the hillside in March 2004.

A subplot of the eight-race program is the increasingly tight battle between Rene Douglas, Tyler Baze, and Patrick Valenzuela in the meet jockey standings. Through Sunday, Baze had 43 wins, 2 more than Douglas and 7 more than Valenzuela. On Wednesday, Baze and Douglas have three mounts each, while Valenzuela has six.

The three also lead the national standings in money won this year. Through Sunday, Douglas was first with $1,920,692, followed by Baze at $1,917,852 and Valenzuela at $1,800,891.