03/06/2007 12:00AM

Seasons set to outrun odds, foes


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sometimes, bettors have few choices other than the obvious. The race-7 feature Thursday at Santa Anita is not one of those times.

Seven fillies and mares run one mile on turf in the $59,000 second-level allowance. The race includes three logical contenders - Christmas Stocking, Ghurra, and Make Mine Minnie.

While all three are qualified to win, a fourth filly can also be considered. And bettors willing to accept slightly more risk will find much to like about longshot front-runner Seasons, who is sitting on the best race of her cycle.

Seasons won 2 of 3 in France, and had not raced in 17 months when she made her U.S. debut Jan. 18 in a downhill sprint. She needed the start, and finished ninth of 10. The race figured to move her forward, but when

trainer Neil Drysdale stretched her out one month later, Seasons landed in the wrong race.

Seasons skipped a condition Feb. 16, running in a third-level allowance. The second favorite was her stablemate Dalicia. Seasons set a solid pace, was hooked into the far turn, battled into the lane, and tired. It was not unexpected; Seasons was the second-highest price on the board.

Everything changes Thursday. Owned by Burt and Jane Bacharach, Seasons drops back to the second allowance level, and shortens to one mile. The turf rails are out at 24 feet, and if Jose Valdivia can get Seasons to relax on the lead, the gray front-runner can race wire to wire.

It will not be easy, because the three logical favorites have plenty in their favor. Christmas Stocking is a five-time winner with two wins already this meet over claiming-caliber fillies. Trained by Jack Carava, Christmas Stocking might be the best finisher in the field. Corey Nakatani rides.

Ghurra has not raced since Dec. 3, but she typically runs well fresh and has a solid work pattern for trainer Ben Cecil. Victor Espinoza rides Ghurra, whose flaw is habitual

seconditis. Ghurra has raced three times at the second allowance level, and finished

second all three times.

Make Mine Minnie finished second one month ago in a similar mile turf race for

fillies and mares. Trained by Jeff Mullins, Make Mine Minnie could be positioned closest to the pacesetter. If Seasons folds, Make Mine Minnie may inherit the lead. Aaron Gryder rides.