01/01/2004 1:00AM

Salty Romance ready for a graded stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. - Lion Heart and Salty Romance made their debuts Oct. 24, the day before the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. Patrick Biancone, who trains both horses, thought Salty Romance had the better chance of the two that day. But it was Lion Heart who won; Salty Romance finished only third.

Neither has lost since.

Since his debut, Lion Heart has won two stakes races, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. Salty Romance, compromised by a slow start in her debut, beat maidens in her second start, then went to Delta Downs and captured last month's Delta Princess.

Salty Romance will seek the first graded stakes victory of her career Sunday when she heads what is expected to be a small field in the Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita.

"She's eager to race. She's eager to work. Like a good horse," Biancone said Thursday morning. "She should be a very good filly."

Although Biancone was disappointed by Salty Romance's debut, the loss did afford her a second start against maidens rather than an immediate jump into stakes company. At Delta Downs, "she just galloped," Biancone said.

The 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel is also expected to attract A.P. Adventure, Penny's Fortune, Stellar Jayne, Super GI, and Wildwood Flower.

Mandella works BC winners

Halfbridled, Action This Day, and Pleasantly Perfect - three of trainer Richard Mandella's four Breeders' Cup winners - worked Thursday morning at Santa Anita.

Halfbridled, the unbeaten winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, breezed a quick and impressive five furlongs in 1:01 under jockey Alex Solis. She began the drill a little faster than Mandella had intended, prompting him to tease Solis after the work: "Where were you going, after a fire?"

"I didn't move," Solis said.

Halfbridled is scheduled to make her first start as a 3-year-old in the Grade 1, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 15.

Action This Day, the upset winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, worked seven furlongs in 1:27.40 in preparation for the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Catalina Stakes on Jan. 17.

Pleasantly Perfect, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, zipped six furlongs in 1:12.60. He is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade 2, $250,000 San Antonio Handicap on Jan. 31.

Hard-luck Sorenson healthy again

After fracturing his neck in an accident at Santa Anita in March, then cracking a bone in his shoulder in another accident at Fairplex in September, jockey Danny Sorenson missed nearly all of the last nine months of the year. He would seem the most eager to bid good riddance to 2003. But on the first morning of the new year, Sorenson was his usual, upbeat self. A healthy dose of philosophy sustained him through the roughest times.

"Any of those - including when I broke my foot in May of 2002 - could have been a lot worse," Sorenson said. "Everybody says I had bad luck, but you could look at it and say I had good luck that it wasn't worse. You assume the risk every time you go out there. It goes with the territory. When it's something you love to do, you've got to take the good with the bad."

Sorenson, 45, fractured his neck around the same time Laffit Pincay Jr. suffered a more serious neck fracture, which forced his retirement. Sorenson came back in September but rode for just five days before going down again. He returned to action at Santa Anita on Sunday.

"Everything's healed up," Sorenson said. "I've just got to find some live horses to ride."

* On Thursday, early birds at Santa Anita were treated to a flyover by a Stealth Bomber, which had flown over the Rose Parade a few miles away in Pasadena. The bomber, accompanied by two fighter jets, came over the track, made a U-turn a few miles away, then flew over the track a second time.

Ema Bovary wins via disqualification

Ema Bovary stretched her winning streak to six in Wednesday's $84,850 Kalookan Queen Handicap at Santa Anita, but only after the stewards promoted her from second to first after disqualifying race winner Royally Chosen for interference.

Ema Bovary led in the final furlong, but Royally Chosen rallied late to take the lead while drifting out. Jockey Roberto Gonzalez, who rode Ema Bovary, claimed foul against Alex Solis, who rode Royally Chosen.

The stewards took five minutes before deciding to reverse the order of finish; the announcement was met with cheers and boos from the crowd gathered around the winner's circle.

"The more I looked at the replay, I thought it was a foul," said Larry Ross, the trainer of Ema Bovary. "I've been taken down before and felt like I shouldn't have, and that's probably the way they're feeling today. It's too bad to win by disqualification, but you look at the head-on, and we were getting pushed out."

Royally Chosen finished 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.89. Trained by Bruce Headley, she disputed the lead throughout, trailing only from the eighth pole to the final strides, when Ema Bovary rallied three wide to reach contention.

Royally Chosen and Ema Bovary had pulled well clear in the final furlong. Ema Bovary finished 5 1/2 lengths in front of 70-1 Sparkling Ava, the longest shot in the field of eight fillies and mares.

Ema Bovary ($4.40) has won 9 of 14 starts and $199,862. She is owned by Rick Beal and Lana Ramsey of Seattle and began her career in Chile, where she was a minor stakes winner.

Since starting her American career last February, Ema Bovary has won 6 of 7 starts, including two stakes wins at Emerald Downs in Washington, two at Golden Gate Fields, and an optional claimer at Hollywood Park in advance of the Kalookan Queen Handicap.

Ross said Ema Bovary will make her next start in the $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 25. The Grade 1 Santa Monica will be Ema Bovary's first graded stakes appearance in the United States.

Bailey has two for Sunshine Millions

Jerry Bailey has been booked to ride two of the four Sunshine Millions races at Santa Anita on Jan. 24, according to his agent, Ron Anderson.

Bailey, who led the nation's riders in earnings in 2003 with $23,354,960, will ride Peace Rules in the $1 million Classic and Betty's Wish in the $500,000 Filly and Mare Turf. Both are trained by Bobby Frankel.

Peace Rules was one of the top 3-year-olds of 2004 and is likely to be favored in the Sunshine Millions Classic, which is restricted to California-breds and Florida-breds. Owned by Ed Gann, Peace Rules has won 6 of 13 starts, including the Blue Grass Stakes and Haskell Invitational, and earned $2,059,990. He was third in the 2003 Kentucky Derby.

Betty's Wish was third in the Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood Park on Dec. 20 and won the Grade 3 Pebbles Handicap at Belmont Park in October.

Baffert gets first win of meeting

Trainer Bob Baffert won his first race of the meeting when his 12th starter, Friendly Michelle, scored a four-length win in an optional claimer in Wednesday's seventh race.

Friendly Michelle was making her first start since beating maidens by 6 1/2 lengths at Del Mar in August. A 3-year-old, she is owned by Mike Foster and Ed Friendly.

Baffert has won seven consecutive training titles at this meeting, a streak that began in 1996-97. At that meeting, Baffert won 33 races, but he has had 40 or more wins in the last six.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen