07/03/2003 11:00PM

'Renegade' barn confident

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Unable to gain a berth in Saturday's $750,000 American Oaks, Rutters Renegade starts in Sunday's $100,000 Flawlessly Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Trainer Gary Mandella said he believes a win in the one-mile turf stakes will show that Rutters Renegade is among the top of her division.

After a second-place finish in the Senorita Stakes May 17, Rutters Renegade started in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap June 7 where a win or placing could have earned a berth in the American Oaks.

She was last of 10 until the final turn and could only finish seventh after chasing a slow pace. Mandella had told jockey Alex Solis to keep Rutters Renegade at the back and make a late rally, a tactic that led to the placing in the Senorita.

It backfired in the Honeymoon at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

"It didn't work out but it wasn't her fault," Mandella said. "She finished all right. I wouldn't back away from trying the distance again."

Rutters Renegade received post 9 in the Flawlessly, which drew 10 3-year-old fillies. The race includes two stakes winners - Fencelineneighbor, who won the Via Borghese Stakes at Gulfstream Park in April, and Katdogawn, the winner of the Manhattan Beach Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf June 1.

Aside from Rutters Renegade, the field also contains four fillies who are stakes-placed - Fudge Fatale, Montana Banana, Seven Grand, and Sharpbill - and the unbeaten Just Too Too. Vanilla Sky and Valentine Dancer start as an entry owned by Al and Sandy Kirkwood.

Just Too Too was claimed for $50,000 from a maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita in January and has since won three allowance races. Trained by Jeff Mullins for Richard Englander, she won a one-mile turf race at Santa Anita March 20 racing on the lead, and is expected to be part of the pace in the Flawlessly.

Mandella is content trying Rutters Renegade from the back of the field, hoping she will have an honest pace to chase.

"I'm not in a big hurry to change her style," he said. "If she will be a nice 3-year-old filly, that style will be an asset."

Makeup Artist, the winner of the Senorita Stakes, is resting following colic surgery and isn't in the Affirmed. But Mandella feels the Flawlessly will be a tough test for Rutters Renegade.

"The Flawlessly may be better than the Senorita," he said.