02/12/2006 12:00AM

Seafree duels, lasts in La Canada


ARCADIA, Calif. - Patrick Valenzuela rode the as a match race, just as he did in the San Vicente Stakes a half-hour earlier on Sunday at Santa Anita. In the San Vicente, his mount stopped and finished last. But in the La Canada, Valenzuela's mount, Seafree, outdueled odds-on favorite Pussycat Doll, then held off Play Ballado to take the Grade 2, $200,000 race for 4-year-old fillies.

Seafree ($11.20) crawled home after torrid early fractions, but Play Ballado could not get closer than the 1 3/4-length margin at the finish. Play Ballado finished 7 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Sharp Lisa, who just did get up in the final yards to beat Pussycat Doll by a half-length. Paddy's Daisy trailed in the field of five.

Pussycat Doll was the 3-5 choice as she went for her third straight win. In her previous races, she had settled just off the pace. But on Sunday, she became rank while racing inside Seafree, and got caught in a pace battle that she could not survive.

Pussycat Doll was lapped on Seafree through fractions of 22.50 seconds, 45.48 seconds, and 1:09.33 for the first six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile race. Pussycat Doll was done after seven furlongs. Seafree reached the mile mark in 1:36.01, and needed more than 14 seconds to complete the final furlong, but no one could catch her. She completed the distance in 1:50.04 on a fast track baked by the gorgeous, Indian Summer weather.

There was a major show plunge on Pussycat Doll. Of the $115,722 bet in the show pool, $96,828 was bet on Pussycat Doll. When she finished fourth, the show prices on the first three finishers were inflated. For instance, Seafree paid more to show ($14.40) than to win.

Seafree, a daughter of Chief Seattle, was making her stakes debut and was making her first start around two turns. She was coming off a second-level allowance sprint win here on Jan. 5. She has now won four times in seven starts. Bobby Frankel trains Seafree for owner Ed Gann.