01/23/2003 1:00AM

Sightseek steps up to Grade 1


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sightseek developed into a promising member of the filly and mare division in 2002 with an undefeated record on dirt, including two graded stakes in the final months of the year.

When Sightseek makes her first start as a 4-year-old in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita, she will also be making her debut in a Grade 1 race - a level at which trainer Bobby Frankel expects her to be competitive in 2003.

Sightseek was ill in early December, forcing Frankel to cancel a start in the La Brea Stakes and focus on the Santa Monica, the country's first Grade 1 race of the year. Frankel is convinced that Sightseek is over the minor setback.

"She's 100 percent over it," said Frankel. "I think she'll do okay." Sightseek has six rivals in the seven-furlong Santa Monica, which is the eighth race on a 10-race card. Though its Grade 1 status makes the Santa Monica the most prestigious race on the program, it is not the richest. Four stakes in the Sunshine Millions for California-breds and Florida-breds are worth between $250,000 and $750,000.

Sightseek is the likely Santa Monica favorite, but she must beat Affluent, the 119-pound highweight who won the 2001 La Brea over this track and distance. Sightseek is already proven in one-turn races. She won a six-furlong maiden race in her debut at Saratoga last July and won three more dirt races around one turn in the fall - an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park, the Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland over seven furlongs in October, and the Top Flight Stakes over a mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29. Her only loss was a second in an allowance race on turf at Saratoga last August.

Frankel was particularly impressed with Sightseek's victory in the Top Flight, where she came from fourth to beat Zonk by 1 3/4 lengths. "She got hit in the face by a whip at the three-sixteenths pole," Frankel said. "All I know is the filly I put away came back to win."

The Top Flight has already proven to be productive. Zonk returned to win the Affectionately Handicap by four lengths at Aqueduct on Jan. 11.

Sightseek is so well regarded by jockey Jerry Bailey that he is traveling from Gulfstream Park for the mount. Bailey is the only jockey that has ridden Sightseek.

Frankel considers the Santa Monica as a prep for longer and more lucrative races for Sightseek. "I think she'll be better going long," he said.

Sightseek drew post 5, which should help her closing style. Reine des Neiges and Live Free or Die are expected to make the pace. Both are making their stakes debuts. Live Free or Die, claimed last February for $32,000, won a six-furlong allowance race at Hollywood Park on Nov. 23.

Reine des Neiges has not started since finishing third in an allowance race at Hollywood Park last November.

"I'll put her on the lead to see if anyone wants to go with her," said her trainer, Clifford Sise.

Sise also starts Kitty on the Track, a lightly raced 6-year-old who was second in the 2001 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Kitty on the Track emerged from a third-place finish in the Survive Stakes on Jan. 3 with several scrapes and bumps. She grabbed a pastern, suffered a puncture wound on her left foreleg and nearly bent off her right front shoe, Sise said. Despite all that, she was able to resume training in time for Sise to pronounce her ready for Saturday's race.

"We got lucky and everything healed up pretty good," Sise said.

Affluent is Sightseek's biggest threat. A 5-year-old trained by Ron McAnally, Affluent won two major stakes last year, and finished behind Horse of the Year hopeful Azeri in four major stakes.

"She's had good works and Ron wants to switch her back to the dirt," said Dan Landers, McAnally's assistant. "This is a good place to start."



Purse: $200,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 1

1Kitty on the TrackL. Pincay Jr.1138-1
2Reine Des NeigesD. Flores10815-1
3Secret of MeccaJ. Krone11015-1
4AffluentA. Solis1193-1
5SightseekJ. Bailey1151-2
6Live Free or DieI. Puglisi10920-1
7WhoopddooV. Espinoza11212-1

Odds by Michael Hammersly

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