08/11/2003 12:00AM

Spring Star tries to step up


DEL MAR, Calif. - Spring Star was a Group 2 winner in her native France and has shown enough promise in her two starts this year for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella to make him believe she might be Grade 1-caliber in this country.

"Give me a couple of days," Mandella said Monday morning. "I think she is. But I'll know better on Wednesday."

So will everyone else. Spring Star will seek her first stakes victory in North America on Wednesday, when she heads a field of nine in the $75,000 Osunitas Handicap, which begins week 4 at Del Mar.

The Osunitas, at 1 1/16 miles on turf, is restricted to older fillies and mares who have not won a stakes race this year. The field is largely made up of imports who won major prizes overseas and are just beginning the second acts of their careers here.

Spring Star comes off a powerful four-length victory against a second-level allowance field on July 13 at Hollywood Park. She was an unlucky loser three weeks earlier in her first start for Mandella.

"I think she should have won her first race," Mandella said. "She was impressive in both her races."

Two other Hall of Fame trainers - Neil Drysdale and Ron McAnally - collectively will send out five runners against Spring Star.

Drysdale has Arabic Song, who has finished third in third-level allowance races in her last pair, and Lhiz, a Chilean import who was a Group 1 winner on turf in her native land.

Arabic Song is "going well," Drysdale said Monday morning. "We've had to fight some things with her. She had a touch of colic, and then she got some mucus."

Lhiz had not raced in 17 months before Drysdale sent her to northern California for a minor stakes race on dirt July 5 at Pleasanton, where she finished seventh of eight. "We just needed to get her going," Drysdale said. "We couldn't find anything else for her."

McAnally will saddle Innit, Southern Oasis, and Voz de Colegiala.

Southern Oasis had a tough time in the Royal Heroine Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 5. She got stirred up in the gate, then ran into traffic trouble during the race and finished seventh.

"The assistant starter in the gate bit her ear to try to calm her down, but you can't do that with her," McAnally said. "That race is a throw-out."

Last out, Voz de Colegiala finished last behind Megahertz, Tates Creek, Dublino, and Golden Apples in the Grade 1 John C. Mabee on July 26.