02/10/2005 12:00AM

Sharp Lisa finds ideal scenario


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sharp Lisa may not have a better chance to win a Grade 1 than Saturday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.

Already the winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Breeders' Cup Stakes last month, and the runner-up in two major stakes last year, Sharp Lisa faces a field that lacks two of the division's leading members - Sweet Catomine, the 2-year-old champion of 2004, and Splendid Blended, the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes last month.

"We're all kind of gung-ho for this race," said Doug O'Neill, who trains Sharp Lisa. "She should be tough, but she's got to run her race. I think it's a good opportunity."

will be favored in the Las Virgenes, which drew seven 3-year-old fillies and is run over 1 1/16 miles. Saturday's race will mark the fourth time that Sharp Lisa has tried the distance.

Last year in races at 1 1/16 miles, Sharp Lisa was second by a head to Runway Model in the Grade 2 Alcibiades at Keeneland, sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star Park, and second by two lengths to Splendid Blended in the Hollywood Starlet.

In the Santa Ynez over seven furlongs, Sharp Lisa rallied from fifth to win by 1 1/2 lengths as an odds-on favorite. She accelerated noticeably in the final furlong.

"We were a little worried at the head of the lane that she might not fire," O'Neill said. "She just dropped her head and found another gear. She definitely wants to beat you."

The runner-up in that race, No Bull Baby, is passing the Las Virgenes, but the third-place finisher, Hot Attraction, has been entered in what will be her first race around two turns.

The field also includes Hot Attraction's stablemate Classic Elegance, the winner of two graded sprint stakes last summer. She has not raced since being pulled up in the Alcibiades in October.

Pussycat Doll finished second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Sweet Catomine, in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel on Jan. 16. It was her first start against winners.

Trainer Bob Baffert expects further improvement from Pussycat Doll, who is by Real Quiet and out of the stakes winner Hookedonthefeelin.