12/17/2006 1:00AM

Romance Is Diane upsets Hollywood Starlet


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The field had reached the first turn of Sunday’s $459,250 at Hollywood Park when David Flores became aware of the potential of Romance is Diane.

The Grade 1 Starlet was the first time that Flores had ridden Romance is Diane and his early impressions of her ability were highly accurate.

"I could feel what kind of horse she was," Flores said. "You get confidence from a horse in the first part of a race."

Making her graded stakes debut, Romance is Diane won the Starlet in an upset, scoring her third consecutive victory. A California-bred, she had won the California Cup Juvenile Fillies in her stakes debut at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 28.

The Starlet was the end to an outstanding day for Flores, who won with five races from eight mounts.

Romance is Diane ($31) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.61, winning the Starlet by one length over Quick Little Miss. Down, a maiden who was sent off as the 3-1 second favorite, finished third in the field of 12 after a slow start. Down rallied six wide in the stretch to reach contention in the final furlong.

Mistical Plan, the 5-2 favorite, finished eighth.

Flores kept Romance is Diane in third for the first six furlongs, stalking Tizthen through quick early fractions of 22.43 and 45.47 seconds. Romance is Diane took the lead on the second turn and led by two lengths in midstretch.

"I was able to save and let her roll in the end," Flores said. "She responded."

The victory made Romance is Diane a leading contender for the top stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the upcoming Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. Owned by Senji Nishimura and trained by Mike Mitchell, Romance is Diane has won 3 of 4 starts and $376,150.