11/21/2003 12:00AM

Quero Quero back on track


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Quero Quero was a rising star in the 3-year-old filly division in late spring before she injured her ankle. Instead of starting in the major turf stakes during the summer, she was on the sidelines.

Sunday at Hollywood Park, Quero Quero makes her first start in more than five months in the $70,000 Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf for 3-year-old fillies.

Trainer Paulo Lobo is guarded about Quero Quero's chances but remains optimistic about her long-term prospects.

"It's a long layoff," Lobo said. "We chose this race because it's better to still run against 3-year-olds than an open allowance."

Owned by Old Friends Inc., Quero Quero has won 2 of 5 starts and never been worse than third. She won a maiden race in her fourth start, over a mile on turf here May 11, and returned June 7 to score a 10-1 upset in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Quero Quero is one of 10 fillies in the Skirball-Kenis, named for the late owner who was active in Los Angeles charities.

Other leading contenders are Fencelineneighbor, who won the Barona Cup Handicap at Del Mar and was second in the Harold Ramser Handicap at Santa Anita last month; Katdogawn, the winner of the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar in August; and Valdoura, a stakes winner in Germany earlier this year who was fourth in the Ramser in her U.S. debut.

Katdogawn was considered for the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes against older fillies and mares next weekend. Trained by Jim Cassidy, she finished seventh in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in August. In June, she won the Manhattan Beach Handicap over 5 1/2 furlongs here on turf.

The Skirball-Kenis lacks a proven pacesetter, and Quero Quero is likely to be in the middle of the pack early. In the Honeymoon, over 1 1/8 miles on turf, she was fourth on the backstretch and fifth at the eighth pole before she rallied to catch Atlantic Ocean and win by a neck.

Quero Quero carried 113 pounds in the Honeymoon, eight pounds less than Atlantic Ocean, but carries top weight of 123 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Skirball-Kenis.

Although Quero Quero has won over 1 1/8 miles, Lobo does not feel it is her ideal distance.

"I think one mile would be better for her than a mile and an eighth," he said.