08/06/2003 11:00PM

Sorrento pits 'Diana' against Tizdubai

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Dirty Diana and Tizdubai will start in Saturday's $150,000 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar coming off completely different wins in July.

On July 25, Dirty Diana won the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes for California-breds over 5 1/2 furlongs with a devastating show of speed.

Tizdubai has made only one start, overcoming trouble to win a maiden race at Hollywood Park on July 6.

The pair are expected to dominate the betting in the Sorrento, a 6 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies. Six other fillies are in the race, including Cherish Destiny, the runner-up in the Grade 3 Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 4 in her stakes debut.

But bettors are expected to narrow their choices to the speedy Dirty Diana or Tizdubai, a full sister to two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner and 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow.

Both fillies are in capable hands.

Bob Baffert (Dirty Diana) and Eoin Harty (Tizdubai) have combined to win three of the last five runnings of the Sorrento Stakes. Harty was an assistant to Baffert in the 1990's before becoming a private trainer for the Maktoum family of Dubai in 2000.

Dirty Diana will go favored. She won her first stakes in the CTBA, pulling away to win by 8 1/2 lengths.

"If I can get her to duplicate that effort, we'll be all right," Baffert said.

Tizdubai beat maidens by 1 1/2 lengths. She was considered for the CTBA Stakes but was held out in favor of the Sorrento after she grabbed a quarter, cutting her foot in the maiden race.

She returned to training with little delay and has worked well in recent weeks.

"The other race was a possibility because the grab wasn't that bad," said Harty's assistant, Alex Hassinger Jr., "but it was in the back of [Harty's] mind to wait for this race."

Because of the trouble she encountered in her debut, Tizdubai could have lost her first race. She was in tight on the turn and lacked room in early stretch before rallying to win. It was the sort of poise that Hassinger and Harty had seen since she began serious training in Dubai earlier this year.

"She showed that experience in the morning," Hassinger said. "She improved leaps and bounds in Dubai and again when she came to California. Everyone thought she could do it, and she really showed that. She's proven to Eoin that she's a quality horse."