01/26/2006 12:00AM

Repeat of last all Western Hemisphere needs


ARCADIA, Calif. - Western Hemisphere may be reaching her peak at an ideal time.

Earlier this month, she won the Kalookan Queen Handicap at Santa Anita by 2 1/2 lengths, stalking the pace to early stretch before pulling clear. Though a minor stakes, the Kalookan Queen may have been an ideal prep for Saturday's $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.

Western Hemisphere will be trying to win her richest prize in the Filly and Mare Sprint, run over six furlongs.

"If she runs that race back, she wins," trainer Bob Baffert said of Western Hemisphere's effort in the Kalookan Queen.

With a big white face and four white feet, Western Hemisphere is easy to pick out on the track.

Baffert admits to having a soft spot for the mare, whose older full-brother is the eight-time stakes winner General Challenge. Both were bred by Golden Eagle Farm, which raced General Challenge and races Western Hemisphere.

"She reminds me so much of her brother, with all the white," Baffert said. "That family has been good to me."

will be tested in the Filly and Mare Sprint for California-breds and Florida-breds. The race drew 13 runners, 10 of whom are California-breds.

The field has attracted , the winner of the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga last summer; Alphabet Kisses, who won the

Grade 1 La Brea Stakes here in 2004; and the outstanding Florida-bred Hot Storm.

A decision on whether Leave Me Alone starts in the Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita will be made on the morning of the race, trainer Eric Kruljac said.

Kruljac said he may wait 24 hours for Sunday's Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap, which will have a smaller field.

"It's a hell of a race, if we all stay in," Kruljac said of the Filly and Mare Sprint. "It would be as tough as the Santa Monica."

If she starts in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Leave Me Alone is likely to be near the front. Kent Desormeaux, her regular rider, has the mount.

Leave Me Alone stalked the pace and finished second to Pussycat Doll in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 31. Last summer, she led throughout the seven-furlong Test Stakes.

"I'm fast enough to go to the front but I'd leave it up to Kent," Kruljac said. "Plan A might be to stalk. Plan B might be everyone else takes a hold and we go to the front. We have to be able to adjust."

Etch, who has not been worse than third in nine stars, will be part of the pace. Trained by John Sadler, Etch seeks her first stakes win.

A stalking trip would be ideal for Hot Storm, who is trained by Dallas Stewart and is the only member of the field trained outside of California.

Hot Storm is in the best form of her career. The winner of the Sunshine Millions Oaks in a 21-1 upset here last year, Hot Storm has won her last four starts, including three stakes on the all-weather surface at Turfway Park.

The field

Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint
Purse: $300,000; 6 furlongs

1aAllswellthatnswell (CA)I. Enriquez12215-1
2Hot Storm (FL)D. Flores1218-1
3Abounding Truth (FL)C. Nakatani12215-1
4Etch (CA)D. Cohen12212-1
5Double D Appeal (FL)J. Santiago12130-1
6Aclevershadeofjade (CA)A. Gryder12230-1
7aRoyally Chosen (CA)J. Cour12215-1
8Run Rebecca Run (CA)T. Baze12210-1
9Thrilling Victory (CA)M. Pedroza12120-1
10Alphabet Kisses (CA)G. Gomez1224-1
11Leave Me Alone (CA)K. Desormeaux1213-1
12Da Svedonya (CA)F. Martinez12230-1
13Western Hemisphere (CA)V. Espinoza1222-1

* a-Coupled: Allswellthatnswell and Royally Chosen
* Blinkers on: Alphabet Kisses
* Odds by Michael Hammersly