08/20/2005 12:00AM

Singhalese takes Del Mar Oaks


DEL MAR, Calif. - The sure, steady campaign that trainer Jim Cassidy mapped out for Singhalese paid dividends on Saturday when the 3-year-old filly scored the first stakes win of her career in the Grade 1, $300,000 .

Singhalese, a British import, was fourth, fourth, and third in stakes races in her first three starts in this country. Cassidy prepped her in an allowance race here on Aug. 1, and that victory, against softer competition, put her on edge for a top performance on Saturday.

Singhalese ($9.40), who started from the rail, moved up wide going into the far turn because she was "going too good, too soon," jockey Mike Smith said later. But Singhalese continued with her run while four paths wide, took over at mid-stretch, then held off the unlucky favorite, Three Degrees, to win by a half-length. Singhalese was timed in 1:46.29 for 1 1/8 miles on firm turf.

Three Degrees, who was bottled up in traffic heading into the stretch, finally got free inside the furlong pole and closed resolutely, but Singhalese had too much left. Dancing Edie, who set the early pace, held on for third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Three Degrees.

The victory by Singhalese continued a resurrection for Cassidy, who suffered through an uncharacteristic slump the first half of the year. He had won just once in 53 starts heading into Del Mar, but has won three races from 11 starts here.

Cassidy has a symbiotic partner in Smith, who has been getting few chances this summer. The Del Mar Oaks was Smith's only mount on Saturday's nine-race card.

"I had to make it count," Smith said.

Singhalese, a 3-year-old filly by Singspiel, is owned by Margie Gould and Paul Dixon.