07/02/2003 11:00PM

Southern Oasis in sharp form for Royal Heroine


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Southern Oasis was having an ideal season until she took on Dublino in the Wilshire Handicap at Hollywood Park April 27.

Facing Dublino, a Grade 1 winner, Southern Oasis could only manage second in her stakes debut, losing by 2 1/2 lengths. The defeat ended a three-race winning streak.

That experience could help Southern Oasis when she starts in Saturday's $100,000 Royal Heroine Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile on turf.

"I think a pretty good filly beat us last time," trainer Ron McAnally said.

Southern Oasis is the likely favorite in the Grade 3 Royal Heroine, which drew a field of nine. The distance is ideal for Southern Oasis and for two of her top rivals, Little Treasure and Polygreen. Another leading contender is Chercheuse, who won minor stakes races in France in 2001 and 2002. The Royal Heroine will mark her United States debut and first start for trainer Eoin Harty.

Little Treasure won the San Clemente Handicap and Pucker Up Stakes last summer, but is winless in her last four starts. She finished second in the WinStar Distaff Handicap at Lone Star on soft turf May 26.

Polygreen was a stakes winner in France last year and has won her last two starts - an allowance race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in April and an allowance race at one mile here May 7.

"She's in great shape," said trainer Richard Mandella. "I expect her to get better as we go. It would be nice if there is pace. I would prefer to have something to follow."

Mandella should get his wish. Southern Oasis, who will be ridden by Alex Solis, typically races near the pace. She raced within a half-length of the lead in the Wilshire until Dublino passed her in the final furlong. "She never quit down the stretch," Solis said.

Lindsay Jean and Belleski start as an entry owned by Jerry and Ann Moss. Lindsay Jean is trained by Art Sherman in northern California, where she has won two stakes races this year. John Sadler trains Belleski, who is making her stakes debut on the strength of a four-race winning streak, all on turf. Trained by John Sadler, the 4-year-old Belleski won a maiden race at one mile April 13 and has since won three sprints.

"She hasn't run long this year because of circumstances, but I think she's better at a mile than going short," Sadler said. "She's very tactical. She can be wherever we want. I think she's better as a stalker."