12/08/2006 12:00AM

Possible $20K roll of the dice with filly


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With her win in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile Fillies last month, Romance Is Diane became a leading candidate for the championship as outstanding statebred filly of 2006. Owner Senji Nishimura and trainer Mike Mitchell have set loftier goals.

They are planning to supplement Romance Is Diane to the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes at Hollywood Park on Dec. 17. The $20,000 supplemental fee could lead to a championship for Romance Is Diane if she were to win or place in the $250,000-guaranteed Starlet, the final Grade 1 race of the year for 2-year-old fillies.

"They're worth so much more if they can be stakes-placed in a Gradeo1," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said that Nishimura and breeder Shigehiro Hatake have "left it in my corner" as to whether to supplement Romance Is Diane, who has won 2 of 4 starts since beginning her racing career in July at Del Mar.

While Romance Is Diane was eighth in her debut, she was unbeaten at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, winning a one-mile maiden race on Oct. 6 and the California Cup Juvenile Fillies by 1 3/4 lengths at 1o1/16 miles on Oct. 28.

"We knew she wanted to run long," Mitchell said after the Juvenile Fillies. "She showed that breaking her maiden. She's been stronger in her gallops and workouts."

Hatake, who works for Nishimura's Japan-based wire and chain-link fence company in California, bred Romance Is Diane, and he maintains contact with Mitchell on her developments.

Romance Is Diane is out of Romantic Fibs and by top stallion In Excess. She is scheduled to go back to that stallion in 2007, Hatake said. Romantic Fibs is carrying a foal by Bertrando, Hatake said.

Romance Is Diane is a full sister to Romanceishope, a multiple stakes winner co-owned by Hatake and Nishimura.

Romanceishope won 5 of 12 starts and $539,082 in a career highlighted by a victory in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby in 2001. Romanceishope won the 2001 Snow Chief Stakes for statebred 3-year-olds and finished fourth in the California Cup Classic that season. Romanceishope was arguably best in the Cal Cup Classic, but was stuck in traffic at a pivotal point in the stretch.

Hatake, 54, breeds under the name Swan Equine Services. A native of Japan, he has been based in the United States for 18 years.

"I'm just starting a business as a breeder," Hatake said. "With broodmares and everything, I have seven. It's a tough business."

Few people would dispute that, but the foals out of Romantic Fibs have made the game much easier for him and Nishimura.

Lucky Pulpit standing at Harris Farms

Lucky Pulpit, a stakes winner at Arlington Park who earned $209,599 in a four-year racing career, will stand his first season at stud at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif., the farm announced earlier this week.

Lucky Pulpit, 5, arrived at Harris Farms last week.

Lucky Pulpit ended his career earlier this year on the East Coast. Owned by Larry and Marianne Williams, Lucky Pulpit began his career in California with trainer Clifford Sise.

The colt finished third in the Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park on turf in 2003 and second in the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita in 2004. Later that year, he ran third in a division of the Oceanside Stakes on turf at Del Mar.

By Pulpit, Lucky Pulpit won the 2005 Smile Stakes at Arlington Park. He made one start this year, finishing second in a minor stakes at Monmouth Park.

A winner on turf and dirt, Lucky Pulpit will stand for $2,500.