03/28/2006 12:00AM

Sneak preview of Gold Rush Day


ARCADIA, Calif. - The Santa Anita winter meet has more than three weeks left, but it is not too soon to start to thinking about Gold Rush Day for California-breds April 30 at Hollywood Park.

In the seventh-race feature Thursday at Santa Anita - an optional claiming race at one mile for statebred 3-year-old fillies - a field of six prep for the $200,000 Melair Stakes on Gold Rush Day. Purrfectly Fitting and Awesome Empress face the same challenge - lightly raced fillies trying to make a successful transition from a maiden sprint to a two-turn race for winners.

was making her second start Jan. 1 when she rallied from sixth and won by 3 1/4 lengths. Owned and bred by Kathleen Ducasse and trainer Jim Cassidy, Purrfectly Fitting has trained well for her first start since, and if the track stays wet she would be right at home. She won her maiden on a wet-fast track.

benefits from a recent race. She was a 16-1 outsider in her debut March 1 when she scored a pace-pressing win at six furlongs. Awesome Empress earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure in that race, highest in the field.

The validity of the race will be known Wednesday because the filly Awesome Empress beat, Rocket Kitty, was scheduled to start as the 8-5 program favorite in race 6. Awesome Empress is a daughter of Awesome Again, and is owned by Jim Vreeland.

returns to the main track after an eighth-place finish March 11 in a grass stakes for 3-year-old fillies. She finished four lengths behind Purrfectly Fitting in her Jan. 1 debut, then followed with a sharp maiden win around two turns. Quarterly Report is trained by Bob Baffert.

Princess McClean stretches out following a comeback sprint win in a maiden-40 starter allowance, a win that was flattered when runner-up Lady Kamala returned March 22 to win a similar race by 2 1/4 lengths.

Marciamarciamarcia was claimed March 10 for $20,000 by Doug O'Neill and runs for the optional $62,500 claiming tag Thursday; Helmsgold is also trained by O'Neill and facing stronger after winning a maiden-40 starter last out.

* Bluesthestandard, the popular millionaire 9-year-old who won for an $18,000 claiming tag one month ago, returns Thursday in race 5 for a $12,500 tag. Trained by Bill Spawr, Bluesthestandard will be strongly favored in the mile race. The second- and fifth-place finishers from the race Bluesthestandard won (Tenth Street, Norway House) returned to win.