05/07/2002 12:00AM

Snowflake facing two freshened imports


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The filly-mare turf division, already the deepest division at Hollywood Park, is about to get stronger. On Thursday, streaking Snowflake and graded-stakes comebackers Reine de Romance and Imperatriz Rafaela race 1 1/16 miles in a tough nonwinners-of-three allowance that could have stakes ramifications.

All three fillies are qualified to leap into stakes competition following the seventh-race feature Thursday, in which Snowflake is likely to be favored among the field of seven entered in the $58,000 allowance.

Although she had placed in a Group 1, Snowflake was still a maiden when she arrived from Europe last fall. Since then, she has won three straight for trainer Ron McAnally and owner Stonerside Stable. Her last was her best yet. Trapped in a four-horse field, she squeezed through a tight opening along the rail, surged, and won by a length. McAnally said she has trained well since the April 18 race.

Snowflake will be ridden by Chris McCarron, who is familiar with Snowflake's main foe. That is Reine de Romance, who McCarron rode in her first two U.S. starts last year. Imported from France by Team Valor and trainer Jenine Sahadi, Reine de Romance lost three maiden dirt routes and was going nowhere until she returned to turf.

In May, Reine de Romance made her first of six spring-summer grass starts, a campaign that netted three wins, including the Grade 2 San Clemente at Del Mar. After a third-place finish in the Del Mar Oaks and a midpack finish in the Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland, Reine de Romance was given seven months off. Her race Thursday is her comeback.

Imperatriz Rafaela also makes a comeback Thursday. A Group 1 winner in Brazil, she has a form that is difficult to interpret. That is because her only two starts against top company were on a main track listed as heavy and a turf course listed as soft. Last weekend, the Hollywood turf played hard and fast, an unfamiliar racing surface for Imperatriz Rafaela.

Trainer Richard Mandella has put a series of long workouts into the filly, and scored last week with a three-other-than colt from Brazil.

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