05/28/2004 11:00PM

Rivals better hope Megahertz acts up


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With better manners, would be unbeaten this year.

Between her wins in the San Gorgonio Handicap in January and the Santa Barbara Handicap in April, Megahertz finished first in the Santa Ana Handicap on March 27 only to be disqualified and placed last for interference. Megahertz was ridden that day by Victor Espinoza, a replacement for regular rider Alex Solis, who was traveling.

Monday, the same scenario occurs. Solis is riding Pico Central in the Met Mile at Belmont Park, and Espinoza rides Megahertz in the $350,000 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park.

This time, Espinoza will be ready if Megahertz behaves erratically.

"Victor knows her now," said Humberto Ascanio, assistant to trainer Bobby Frankel. "When he asked her, she was surprised and just ducked in. She needs to be ridden with finesse, and Victor is very aggressive."

Megahertz has only three rivals in the Grade 1 Gamely over 1 1/8 miles on turf - Dimitrova, Noches de Rosa, and Quero Quero. Megahertz and Dimitrova each carry 122 pounds, seven more than Noches de Rosa and Quero Quero. Noches de Rosa, second to Megahertz in the Santa Barbara, will set the pace. Dimitrova is best as a stalker, and Megahertz and Quero Quero are closers.

Megahertz will be heavily favored and has earned ample respect from rival trainers.

"It would surprise me to beat Megahertz," said trainer Richard Mandella, who starts Noches de Rosa.

Noches de Rosa is winless in five starts since winning the 2003 Santa Ana Handicap. In last month's Santa Barbara Handicap, she led by two lengths in midstretch and lost by a length to Megahertz.

"I thought she ran her heart out," Mandella said.

Dimitrova won the American Oaks here last year. She finished fourth in the Wilshire Handicap over a mile on turf April 25, a distance that was too short for her, trainer Neil Drysdale said.

"I think the farther the distance, the better," Drysdale said.

Quero Quero was second in the Wilshire, closing from ninth in the final quarter-mile to finish 2 1/2 lengths behind Spring Star.

"The track didn't suit the horses that came from the back," said trainer Paulo Lobo.

Lobo did not commit Quero Quero to the Gamely until the middle of last week. He said Quero Quero emerged from the Wilshire with sore feet. "Her feet have improved," he said.