09/23/2003 11:00PM

Top Spinner could upset Las Madrinas


POMONA, Calif. - Purse money of $100,000 buys different things for different racetracks. Sunday at Santa Anita, it buys the participation of one horse. A purse increase allows Azeri to run for $300,000 in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap instead of for the original purse of $200,000.

But on Friday at Fairplex Park, $100,000 buys an entire field of 11 fillies and mares. That is how many entered the $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap, which promises to be far more attractive - from a wagering perspective - than the Azeri exhibition. In the Las Madrinas, there are no odds-on favorites, and it is no easy task to even identify the favorite.

Eclipse de Luna won the $50,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes on Sept. 14 by 3 1/2 lengths, as if she had been running on five-eighth-mile tracks her entire career. A Group 1 winner in Chile, Eclipse de Luna is trained by Bill Spawr and is the

118-pound Las Madrinas co-highweight, along with Rhiana and Super High. Martin Pedroza rides Eclipse de Luna, David Flores rides graded-stakes-placed Rhiana, and Frank Alvarado rides California-bred stakes winner Super High.

The contention goes beyond the highweights. Top Spinner, claimed two starts back for $62,500 by trainer Jeff Mullins, has looked sensational in morning workouts at Fairplex. An import from New Zealand, Top Spinner's form was flattered when two of the fillies she beat in a Del Mar allowance returned to win.

Bold Roberta, another starter, goes from a sprint to a route after winning the Pio Pico here one week ago, and Imperatriz Rafaela finished second in the E.B. Johnston. Other starters are Deja, Meguial, Bella Volares, Moonlady, and Potri Star.

Rhiana had not raced in more than four months when she returned Sept. 7 in the Grade 2 Palomar at Del Mar. "She definitely needed the race," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "She might have needed it more than I thought; I rushed her into the race."

Eclipse de Luna has won 14 of 24. The South American mare arrived in the United States early this year, ran once at Del Mar, then scored a mild upset in the E.B. Johnston. She may start favored.

The upsetter has to be Top Spinner. A stretch-runner with a series of sharp works, she will try to give Mullins his second straight Las Madrinas win. Ryan Fogelsonger rides the mare, a solid gamble at 5-1 or higher.