01/06/2007 1:00AM

Three Degrees at the mercy of pace

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Three Degrees, despite losing eight straight, is the likely favorite in Sunday's San Gorgonio.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The problem with Three Degrees is that she never quite gets there.

The deep-closing Three Degrees will try to end an eight-race losing streak Sunday as the favorite in the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf. Her only prerace excuse is pace.

Seven fillies and mares entered the $150,000 San Gorgonio, in which the good miler Beautyandthebeast starts as the 120-pound highweight. Three Degrees however, is the horse to beat under Alex Solis and 117 pounds. Trainer Paddy Gallagher, who started the meet winning 4 of 12, recognizes the challenge facing the Grade 1-placed Three Degrees.

"There's not a lot we can do about changing her tactics, but if there's speed to run at, it would help," Gallagher said.

Good luck with that. The San Gorgonio came up without a true front-runner, so Three Degrees must rally from behind slow fractions.

The pace might not matter, because Three Degrees is the class of the field. She was second last out in the Grade 1 Matriarch and third in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon two back, and the drop to Grade 2 is welcome. And if the slow-paced San Gorgonio boils down to a sprint for home, Three Degrees will be difficult to hold back.

Three Degrees won 3 of her first 4 in the U.S., but has not won since the Grade 2 Honeymoon in June 2005. Overall, the 4-year-old Three Degrees has won 3 of 14 and $455,813.

Her rivals are Beautyandthebeast, seventh with trouble in the Matriarch; Ready to Please, who has some tactical speed and finished sixth in the Matriarch; Citronnade, winner of a minor stakes last out; Grande Melody, winner of the Grade 2 Dahlia last out; New York shipper Rahys' Appeal, and Strong Faith.

Beautyandthebeast lost by two lengths in the one-mile Matriarch after being blocked in midstretch. Beautyandthebeast has won 6 of 15, but has won just 1 of 6 beyond a mile. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Beautyandthebeast will be ridden by Corey Nakatani. Her advantage is that she has more tactical speed than Three Degrees.

Lightly raced Grande Melody won the Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap last month at Hollywood, her third win from seven starts. Trained by Patrick Biancone and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Grande Melody may be the main threat to Three Degrees.

Citronnade has been freshened two months after winning the Audrey Skirball-Kenis at Hollywood Park. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Citronnade will be forwardly placed under David Flores.