02/14/2004 12:00AM

Star Parade looks to steal it again

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ARCADIA, Calif. - stole the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in December with a front-running style that proved impossible to catch. She pulled away in the final furlong to win her stakes debut by 3 1/4 lengths.

Star Parade returns in Monday's $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita and will try to use the same tactics against a tougher field.

Trainer Darrell Vienna is confident that Star Parade's speed can be effective against six other older fillies and mares, including Adoration, the upset winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff last October, and the multiple stakes winners Bare Necessities and Island Fashion.

"Last time, my concern was her getting pressure from horses of quality," Vienna said. "But they couldn't get to her."

Star Parade may have more company on the front in the Grade 1 Santa Maria, run over 1 1/16 miles. Island Fashion, fresh from wins in two seven-furlong stakes - the La Brea against 3-year-old fillies and the Santa Monica against older females - has the speed to go with Star Parade.

Adoration, second in the Bayakoa, has won from the front but is not fast enough to keep pace with Star Parade.

Trainer David Hofmans learned that in the Bayakoa, when Adoration could not catch Star Parade despite being within a length in the stretch.

"We made a mistake by letting Star Parade get an easy lead," Hofmans said last week. "We'll be closer."

Island Fashion, the 121-pound topweight, is not committed to the front. She disputed the lead in the La Brea on Dec. 27, but raced from a stalking position in the Santa Monica on Jan. 25. Trainer Marcelo Polanco said strategy will be left to jockey Kent Desormeaux.

"Someone might do something different," Polanco said. "She's the kind you can put anywhere."

Three other mares - Angel Gift, La Tour, and Preeminence, a shipper from Japan - are likely to race in midpack, while Bare Necessities needs a quick pace to help her rally.

Preeminence is making her first start in the United States. A winner of 13 of 49 starts and $5,037,956, Preeminence, 7, has not started since finishing second in a stakes over 1 9/16 miles on Dec. 23.

Bare Necessities was third in the Bayakoa but rebounded to win the Paseana Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 16.

"We won the Paseana, and that should set her up perfectly," trainer Wally Dollase said. "She'll run her race. Whether it's good enough to win is another thing."