08/31/2005 12:00AM

Pussycat Doll resumes racing


DEL MAR, Calif. - Pussycat Doll was a top contender for the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes last winter at Santa Anita when trainer Bob Baffert pulled her out of the race because he was concerned over the wet-fast conditions.

He wound up doing more than that in the following days, taking Pussycat Doll out of training entirely.

"She wasn't doing that well, and I turned her out," Baffert said.

Judging from her recent workouts and comments from Baffert, Pussycat Doll is ready for a comeback when she starts in Friday's $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar.

The race marks Pussycat Doll's first start since January and an excellent chance for her first stakes win.

"She's been working very nice," Baffert said. "She needs the two turns. The only thing about her is she's coming off a layoff."

has one victory in four starts, a maiden race over a mile at Santa Anita last December. She followed that race with a runner-up finish to Sweet Catomine in the Grade 2 Santa Ysabel Stakes in January.

Owned by Mike Pegram, Pussycat Doll will be ridden in the Torrey Pines Stakes by Victor Espinoza. Baffert said that Espinoza was given the option to ride Pussycat Doll or Baffert's other entrant, Pegasus Rose.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, won an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles on July 14, her most recent start. She pressed the pace throughout and pulled clear to win by two lengths.

"I left it up to Victor," Baffert said. "He's been working both of them. They're healthy and they're going well."

There are six fillies entered in the Torrey Pines. Pegasus Rose could face early pressure from the speedy Bella Banissa or Soldier's Kiss, both of whom are making their first start around two turns.

has won her last four starts, including the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for statebreds over seven furlongs here on July 23.

In that race, she disputed the lead, pulled clear to lead by a length, and was fully extended to hold off Gn. Group Meeting.

Trainer and co-owner Bruce Headley expects Soldier's Kiss to handle the longer distance, and is hoping that the pace is not as quick.

"She can run a little easier," Headley said. "She had to run every step going seven furlongs. She's changed in life. All of a sudden, she's getting longer. She's a filly whose build is changing."