07/07/2004 11:00PM

Return race suits Elloluv


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The first six months of the year failed to yield a clear-cut leader among the nation's older fillies and mares. Azeri started strong, but has since fizzled. Storm Flag Flying has had her moments, as has Sightseek, but neither has put together a consistent campaign. Adoration and Star Parade have taken turns beating one another. Craig Dollase, the trainer of Elloluv, is hoping that the time is right for Elloluv to come back and make her mark.

, who finished second to Adoration in last fall's Breeders' Cup Distaff, makes her first start of the year in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park. It is a means to an end - with the Breeders' Cup Distaff the goal again - but Elloluv figures to come back firing.

She shows a series of sharp drills for her return, with two of her last three workouts the fastest of the day at the distance. She is competing over a track on which she regularly trains, and on which she is unbeaten. And with her speed, seven furlongs should be an ideal comeback distance.

"She's training very well," Dollase said Thursday morning. "She's got a good series of works. The division is kind of on the light side right now, so we're keen to get her back."

Elloluv has won twice at Hollywood Park. She defeated maidens, then jumped right into the Hollywood Starlet and scored a 30-1 upset.

"It helps us tremendously," Dollase said of the home-court advantage. "She's trained here all along and won a Grade 1 race. She has a fondness for the surface."

Elloluv has not raced since Dec. 27, when she finished sixth in the La Brea Stakes. "We had a little bump in the road. She had a little problem with her hind end," Dollase said.

Elloluv carries top weight of 121 pounds. She is conceding at least five pounds to her eight rivals, including Coconut Girl, who stopped Ema Bovary's win streak with a victory in Hollywood's Desert Stormer Handicap on June 5.

Coconut Girl has finished in the money in nine straight races, and has never finished worse than second in four starts at Hollywood Park, where she is based with trainer Paul Aguirre. Coconut Girl is a nervous mare who likes familiar surroundings.

"She's not a good gate horse, and you have to saddle her on the walk," Aguirre said.

Aguirre said he was not happy that Coconut Girl drew the rail. He said he hoped jockey Victor Espinoza would "sit and finish."

Elusive Diva, the only 3-year-old in the race, was second in the Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks in her last start. She owns a seven-furlong victory at this meet, in the Railbird Stakes.

Dream of Summer is facing her toughest challenge yet, but is only a head away from being unbeaten in five starts on dirt.