01/19/2002 1:00AM

Run-and-gun time in Santa Ynez

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Ayanna never has won a race without leading every step of the way. Rich Musique never has won a race without leading every step of the way. Both have repeatedly run opening quarter-miles in 21 seconds and change. With both entered in Monday's Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita, the scene is set for a spirited duel over seven furlongs.

For trainer Ron McAnally, who starts the late-running Candor, he is hoping the winner of that pace duel earns merely a Pyrrhric victory. Candor exits a Dec. 31 allowance race, won by Rich Musique, that finds the first four finishers returning to face one another again. Candor gets an extra sixteenth of a mile with which to work, but she must break from the rail, and McAnally is still not convinced she's better than either of the front-runners.

"She's got her work cut out," McAnally said Saturday morning at Santa Anita. "She's got the rail, and she's coming back what might be a little soon for her. But if she runs the way she did last time, she could be effective."

For Candor to win, she has to hope both front-runners stop. At seven furlongs, however, the pace is generally slower than at six furlongs. With the longer run to the lone turn, there is not the impetus to get position quickly. As a result, Ayanna and Rich Musique might go slow enough to last.

Ayanna is the more accomplished of the two. She has won three times in six starts, and finished second twice, her lone disastrous performance coming in her only start around two turns. She is a sprinter, and a very good one at that. She led from start to finish in Hollywood Park's Moccasin Stakes in November, then last month beat the boys in the Christmas Futurity at Turf Paradise, the home track of her trainer, Kory Owens.

Rich Musique has won two straight since finishing second in her debut. She benefits by drawing the outside post in the field of eight, giving jockey Pat Valenzuela options should Ayanna be intent on making the lead. This will be Rich Musique's first start in a stakes, but her trainer, Vladimir Cerin, has long maintained that she is of this quality.

Sure to get overlooked again, and again seeking an upset, is Lady George, who has scored longshot wins against California-breds in Santa Anita stakes in the last 2 1/2 months. She takes the worst of the weights, however, carrying topweight of 123 pounds, two more than Ayanna, and five more than Rich Musique.

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