01/15/2005 12:00AM

Sharp Lisa absolute standout

Sharp Lisa: Her only potential Santa Ynez problem is a lone-speed rival.

ARCADIA, Calif. - may be the biggest cinch on the Monday card at Santa Anita, where she towers over seven other 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs.

Four starts into her career, Sharp Lisa has emerged as the third seed in a strong division, and the Santa Ynez is the ideal spot to begin a 2005 campaign. The race has no superstars.

"In our minds, she's third in the category out here," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "We're trying to duck [Sweet Catomine and Splendid Blended]. We're looking for a spot where we can try to get a win."

He found it. Runner-up in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet and sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Sharp Lisa shortens to one turn Monday while facing a modest field that she should handle. The only potential snag is if her main rival gets loose on the lead.

Mother powered to an eight-length maiden win in her second start Jan. 2 at Santa Anita, earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure that qualifies her for tougher company. Trained by Bob Baffert, Mother enters with a potential pace advantage. The Santa Ynez is without much speed, and Mother may be loose under Mike Smith.

Baffert also entered No Bull Baby, who shortens up after setting the pace and tiring in the Hollywood Starlet. No Bull Baby has won 2 of 6 starts and overcame a tough trip Nov. 21 to win a seven-furlong stakes at Santa Anita. Other starters in the Santa Ynez include Ninadivina, Northern Mischief, Hot Attraction and Bulita. Revealed was entered in the Santa Ynez, but her trainer, John Shirreffs, said she would run Sunday in the Santa Ysabel.

Beyond her class advantage, Grade 1-placed Sharp Lisa should relish the turnback from two turns to seven furlongs. She won her sprint debut at Calder before being purchased privately and transferred to O'Neill. "Her maiden win was so impressive around one turn," O'Neill said. "If she runs anything close to that she should be very tough."

Sharp Lisa's jockey Monday is Tyler Baze, but O'Neill said Corey Nakatani will regain the mount on Sharp Lisa after he returns from suspension next month. Nakatani was the regular rider last year for Sweet Catomine.

It means that even if Sharp Lisa wins the Santa Ynez, she is likely to duck Sweet Catomine in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks later this meet.

The Santa Ynez is race 8 on the card; the $100,000 San Miguel for 3-year-old sprinters goes as race 3.