01/28/2005 1:00AM

Solar Echo backed by hot trainer

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Benoit & Associates
Mea Domina, Gary Stevens up, could be headed for the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 21, said trainer Ron McAnally.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Judging from the way Ron McAnally's stable is winning grass races for fillies and mares this week, it may be dangerous to bet against Solar Echo in Sunday's $75,000 Wishing Well Handicap at Santa Anita.

McAnally won Wednesday's top race, a $57,200 allowance race over a mile on turf, with Mea Domina. Thursday, McAnally won the $79,350 Tuzla Handicap over a mile on turf with Good Student.

Solar Echo has 10 rivals in the Wishing Well, run over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. The race will mark her first start since she was second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in 2003. She underwent surgery to have bone chips removed from an ankle following that race.

"It took time getting her over it," McAnally said.

Solar Echo has won 3 of 5 starts and $165,000. The Del Mar Oaks is her only stakes appearance. She won three consecutive races on dirt and turf from March to August 2003.

McAnally said Solar Echo was ready to run at Hollywood Park's fall meeting in December, but poor weather has worked her against her.

"We've had her ready for more than a month," he said.

Solar Echo was entered for the Monrovia Handicap on the hillside turf course here Dec. 31, but was scratched when the race was removed from turf. "It's been one thing after another," McAnally said. "It was a bad situation."

In the Wishing Well, Solar Echo carries 117 pounds, one fewer than the highweight, Any for Love, who is trained by Richard Mandella. A turf sprint specialist, Any for Love has won 3 of 7 starts on Santa Anita's hillside turf course and placed second or third in three other starts.

The Wishing Well marks the turf debut of Elusive Diva, the winner of the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes last May who was third in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on Dec. 27.

Trainer Mark Glatt had considered starting Elusive Diva, 4, in Sunday's Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap against older fillies and mares but has opted for the Wishing Well.

"We're putting her on grass a little earlier than we thought we would, but the Santa Monica could be a very salty race," Glatt said.

Glatt is using the Wishing Well as a prep to the $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on turf Feb. 21.

"We think she'll like the turf," said Glatt. "My filly could use a little confidence. If she runs in the Santa Monica, where am I going to go after that?"

McAnally pointing for Buena Vista

McAnally has the Grade 2 Buena Vista on Feb. 21 as a possibility for Mea Domina and Good Student.

Wednesday's allowance race win marked Mea Domina's first victory since the Harold Ramser Sr. Handicap over a mile on turf at Oak Tree in October. Wednesday, she stalked pacesetter The Yellow Sheet to the final furlong and held off a late run from Boasting. Mea Domina finished a mile on turf in 1:36.80.

In between those starts, Mea Domina finished sixth in the La Brea Stakes on the main track, an outing that McAnally dismissed before she had left the paddock.

"She got wound up in the paddock," he said. "We did a lot of schooling after that, and I think it really helped her.

"I think she does like the turf better."

Good Student led throughout the Tuzla, winning by a head over Belle Ange. Good Student finished a mile on turf in 1:37.38.

Last fall, Good Student finished fourth in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap.

Purses staying level for now

Despite poor attendance and handle figures caused largely by bad weather, purses at the current Santa Anita winter-spring meeting are not in jeopardy of being reduced - for now, according to Ron Charles, executive director of Magna California.

Magna is Santa Anita's parent company.

Charles said on Friday that on-track attendance was down 12 percent, while overall handle had fallen 8 percent since the meeting started on Dec. 26.

Charles said the track needs dry weather in early February to ensure that business is strong and purses do not need to be cut.

"If we keep getting rain over the next two weeks, something could happen," he said.

Santa Anita officials are eager to avoid a purse cut. The 2003-04 meeting had a purse cut of 6.5 percent in overnight purses in late January because of poor handle figures.

This year, Santa Anita has suffered through a remarkably wet winter with 12 of the first 26 days of the meeting run over main tracks listed as other than fast. Racing was canceled after one race on Jan. 9 due to treacherous track conditions.

Juvenile champs take track

Declan's Moon and Sweet Catomine, the champion 2-year-olds of 2004, had workouts late in the week.

Declan's Moon breezed a half-mile in 47.60 seconds at Hollywood Park on Friday. Unraced since winning the Hollywood Futurity last month, he is being pointed for the $200,000 Santa Catalina Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on March 5.

Sweet Catomine worked a half-mile in 48.60 seconds at Santa Anita on Thursday. A winner of four consecutive stakes, she is being pointed for the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks over 1 1/16 miles on March 13.

Also at Hollywood Park on Friday, Singletary worked five furlongs in 58.60 seconds, the fastest of 53 recorded works at the distance. He has not started since winning the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park in October, and is being pointed for the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on March 5.

- additional reporting by Brad Free