03/09/2006 12:00AM

Rain may shape race

Healthy Addiction doesn't mind a muddy track but may not love the 1 1/8-mile distance of Saturday's Santa Margarita, trainer John Sadler said.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The weather may ruin Star Parade's chances of running in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita, but could make for an ideal weekend for her rival Healthy Addiction.

Expected rain would leave Star Parade in the barn, trainer Darrell Vienna said. Conversely, Healthy Addiction would do well on a wet track, trainer John Sadler said.

The two mares are part of an outstanding field in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita, which is run at 1 1/8 miles. The race has also drawn the graded-stakes winners Bending Strings, Dream of Summer, Hollywood Story, Proposed, and Seafree. Awesome Lady, Play Ballado, and Santa Candida are also entered.

If she starts, Star Parade would be trying to do something that she has not done in more than two years - win consecutive stakes. Vienna said that if Star Parade does not start on Saturday, she will be pointed for the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in April.

"She doesn't run" on an off track, Vienna said. "She works well over it, but doesn't run on it. If it's fast, I think she'll be hard to beat."

has not ducked competition in recent years. Since December 2003, Star Parade has run only in Grade 1 or Grade 2 stakes, a span of 18 races. She won the 2003 Bayakoa and the 2004 Santa Maria in consecutive starts, but otherwise has followed stakes wins with losses.

Her recent win in the Santa Maria was one of the more flashy victories of her career, as she scored by two lengths over Proposed. Star Parade rallied from third behind pacesetter Healthy Addiction to take the lead in early stretch.

"She's relaxing more," Vienna said. "She laid off Healthy Addiction and pounced."

The Santa Maria Handicap marked Star Parade's second stakes win in her last three starts. She won the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in December, but followed with a 10th in the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap on turf in January.

Sadler said is best when able to stalk the pace away from the rail. She was on the rail in the Santa Maria. A muddy track does not concern him as much as the distance.

"She likes muddy," Sadler said. "I might be a little suspect at a mile and an eighth, like some of the others."

were second and third behind Star Parade in the Santa Maria at 1 1/16 miles. Both are trained by John Shirreffs.

Hollywood Story made her 2006 debut in the Santa Maria, rallying from last of seven to finish third, 4 3/4 lengths behind Star Parade.

Proposed won the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies in January. While Proposed has raced near the front in several starts, Shirreffs would prefer she stalk the pace. In the Santa Maria she raced farther back than usual.

"I thought she was back a little far last time," Shirreffs said. "It looks like three lengths off the lead is perfect for her."

will be in a similar spot. A minor stakes winner at Belmont Park last fall, Play Ballado has been second in two starts in California this year - the El Encino and La Canada stakes. In the Grade 2 La Canada, Play Ballado finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Seafree.

In the Santa Margarita, Play Ballado will carry 114 pounds, six fewer than topweight Dream of Summer.

"It will help us that she's in kind of light," trainer John Ward said.

was beaten a nose in the 2005 Santa Margarita by Tarlow. She was third in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream on Jan. 28, finishing 13 3/4 lengths behind House of Fortune after racing near the lead early.

But at Santa Anita, Dream of Summer has an admirable record of 3 wins in 6 starts, including a close third on a wet-fast track in the 2005 Kalookan Queen Handicap.

The field

Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap
Purse: $300,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

1Dream of SummerA. Solis1204-1
2SeafreeV. Espinoza1155-1
3Healthy AddictionJ. Court1168-1
4Santa CandidaO. Berrio11230-1
5Star ParadeM. Pedroza1185-2
6Play BalladoT. Baze1148-1
7Hollywood StoryG. Gomez1168-1
8Bending StringsC. Nakatani11612-1
9ProposedP. Valenzuela1179-2
10 Awesome LadyM. Garcia11230-1

* Blinkers off: Dream of Summer
* Odds by Michael Hammersly