11/14/2004 12:00AM

Royally Chosen takes Cat's Cradle

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The old bay mare, she is what she used to be.

Royally Chosen, still going strong at age 6, went over the $500,000 mark in career earnings with a front-running victory in the $88,500 on Sunday at Hollywood Park.

Royally Chosen took the early lead, surrendered it to rivals Cyber Slew and Our Mango on the turn, then re-rallied and won going away by three lengths in the 7 1/2-furlong race for California-bred fillies and mares. Cyber Slew nosed out Tucked Away for second. Lucky Spirit was fourth and Our Mango last in the field of five.

Western Hemisphere, the morning-line favorite, was scratched the morning of the race.

Royally Chosen ($3.80), who thus inherited the role of favorite, was timed in 1:27.94, a stakes record.

"She was the speed of the race, and I was expecting to find myself on the lead," said winning rider David Flores, who also captured Saturday's On Trust Handicap with Anziyan Royalty. "She was much the best."

Royally Chosen is the latest senior citizen to achieve stakes success for trainer Bruce Headley, whose best runners -- including sprint champ Kona Gold, Softshoe Sure Shot, and Son of a Pistol -- are known for having lengthy careers with well-spaced races. Royally Chosen was making only the 21st start of her career. The Cat's Cradle was her sixth victory, and she is 2-for-3 at Hollywood.

"So many people wear their horses out before they're 2," Headley said. "This used to be a common thing. Now, they think they're too old. Actually, they're in their prime.

"She likes it here," added Headley, who usually races sparingly at Hollywood Park. Headley said he may bring Royally Chosen back in the Grade 2, $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap on Dec. 12.