03/12/2004 1:00AM

They'll have to catch Star Parade

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Star Parade is expected to have the early lead when she attempts to win her third consecutive stakes in Sunday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita.

The success has trainer Darrell Vienna guardedly optimistic about Star Parade's chances in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita, her first start over 1 1/8 miles.

"Who can go with her? I hate when things look too good," Vienna said, jokingly.

Six fillies and mares are entered in the Santa Margarita, but none has the front-running ability of Star Parade.

Adoration led throughout her win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last fall, but more frequently races from a stalking position. Sweetshew, who is only a maiden winner, and Fencelineneighbor are stalkers. Bare Necessities and La Tour are closers.

has been impossible to catch in her last two starts, both at 1 1/16 miles. An Argentine-bred who arrived in this country last spring, Star Parade has won 4 of 6 starts in the United States.

In her only stakes appearance in this country, she led throughout the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap last December at Hollywood Park and the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap in her 2004 debut here on Feb. 16.

Vienna insists that Star Parade is not a runoff.

"She did that herself. It wasn't like she was pulling," he said. "I'm not worried about the distance. I think she'll run long. When she's hooked, she runs pretty good."

is the biggest threat to Star Parade. Trained by Wally Dollase, Bare Necessities was a fast-closing second to Star Parade in the Santa Maria, losing by a head. Last year, Bare Necessities won two Grade 3 stakes at 1 1/8 miles - the Sixty Sails and Gardenia handicaps in the Midwest.

"I think she'll like the distance," Dollase said. "She doesn't have the speed Star Parade has. She'll have to sit back, and hopefully we can catch her at the end. I feel better at a mile and an eighth than a mile and a sixteenth."

Bare Necessities is seeking her first Grade 1 win.

Adoration accomplished that milestone with her 40-1 victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Adoration and Fencelineneighbor are coupled in the betting as an entry owned by John and Jerry Amerman.

Adoration, trained by David Hofmans, finished fourth in the Santa Maria Handicap, while Fencelineneighbor, trained by Mike Machowsky, was second in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on Feb. 14.

Hofmans said Adoration will not challenge Star Parade in the first half of the Santa Margarita.

"We won't use her like last time," Hofmans said. "We'll let her run her own race. We're hoping the extra distance helps."