10/23/2003 12:00AM

Spring Meadow in peak form


ARCADIA, Calif. - Spring Meadow will try to win consecutive stakes for the first time in her career in Saturday's $100,000 Very Subtle Handicap at Santa Anita.

Last month, Spring Meadow won the Bangles and Beads Handicap at Fairplex Park in a race that trainer Bob Hess Jr. described as "a paid workout."

The six-furlong Very Subtle will be more difficult, but Hess insists Spring Meadow is ready in an attempt to win her fifth career stakes.

"She's excellent right now," he said.

The Very Subtle is run as Saturday's first race, prior to the Breeders' Cup.

Nasty Storm, the winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff in 2001 and the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park, offers the biggest threat to Spring Meadow. Nasty Storm is making her first start for trainer Bobby Frankel, having been previously trained by Dallas Stewart. Nasty Storm has not started since finishing third in the Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct last November.

The field of seven also includes Mooji Moo, a two-time stakes winner at Monmouth Park this year; and Pheiffer and Lacie Girl, the first two finishers of the Charles Russell Handicap for fillies and mares at six furlongs at Bay Meadows on Oct. 12.

Spring Meadow is trying for her fourth stakes win of the year. She won the Las Flores Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs here in February and the six-furlong Local Thriller Stakes at Delaware Park in late June. Both races were followed by losses in stakes.

The Sept. 23 Bangles and Beads Stakes at Fairplex Park does not look very sexy on her race record, but Hess said the opportunity was too good to pass up.

"We could have sat in the barn and waited," he said.

Hess said that Fog City Stable owners David Shimmon and Bill Bianco are planning to sell Spring Meadow this January at Keeneland. He predicts there is time for three more starts before the sale. By then, she may have added to her record of 6 wins in 20 starts and earnings of $478,777.