03/02/2004 1:00AM

Trainer says Island Fashion will start


ARCADIA, Calif. - It is the wrong question, yet the one everyone is asking. Is the filly Island Fashion really running Saturday against males in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap? Trainer Marcelo Polanco, who has entered Island Fashion four times this meet and scratched her twice, said, "She is running."

A more appropriate question might be - Why? Fillies do not beat males in Grade 1 dirt races in March.

"To anybody else, it might be wrong," the trainer said. "To me, it might be right. And this is the time to show if I'm right or wrong. Time will tell. I might be a genius; I might be the stupidest guy in the world."

Polanco will consult with owner Jeff Nielsen before Island Fashion enters the Big Cap starting gate against Pleasantly Perfect, Southern Image, Buddy Gil, and five others. So based on recent history, there is a 50-50 chance that Island Fashion will become the 41st filly or mare to run in the Big Cap. None have won. Why try it now?

"It's a million dollars, and it's a Grade 1," Polanco said. "And if she makes it, she'll be all over the papers, and that's what [Nielsen] likes."

A sensible alternative is the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap for fillies and mares, to be run eight days later on March 14. Island Fashion has won her two starts this meet, both Grade 1's at seven furlongs - the La Brea Stakes on Dec. 27, and the Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 25. In between, she scratched from the Jan. 18 El Encino Stakes, and scratched again from the Feb. 16 Santa Maria Handicap.

Overall, Island Fashion has won 5 of 11 starts and earned more than $1.2 million. The question is whether the 1 1/4-mile Big Cap would compromise the rest of her campaign.

Island Fashion could become one of the top fillies and mares in the country, but at present, she is merely a good sprinter whose best two-turn Beyer is 101. It makes her a 12-1 outsider in the Big Cap, though Island Fashion would be in the neighborhood of 5-2 if she were to wait for the Santa Margarita against her own gender the following weekend.

"She's fit - she's been galloping two miles every day," Polanco said, adding that she has won at 1 1/4 miles. "I have no doubts she's ready. I just need to keep her comfortable, sound, and happy. The thing that I want to show is that she's very special."

If Island Fashion runs, Kent Desormeaux will ride. Big Cap entries were to be drawn on Wednesday.

The probable Big Cap field: Pleasantly Perfect, Alex Solis, 123; Olmodavor, no rider named, 119; Southern Image, Victor Espinoza, 118; Buddy Gil, Gary Stevens, 117; Island Fashion, Desormeaux, 115; Star Cross, Corey Nakatani, 114; Toccet, Emile Ramsammy, 113; Royal Place, Jose Valdivia, 111; and Saint Buddy, Tyler Baze, 111.

Domestic Dispute waiting for Dubai World Cup

Strub Stakes winner Domestic Dispute will forsake the Big Cap in favor of the $6 million Dubai World Cup, trainer Paddy Gallagher confirmed Tuesday. "It looks almost certain he's going to Dubai," Gallagher said.

Desormeaux rode the 4-year-old to victory in the Strub, but Domestic Dispute will have a new rider for his next start. Gallagher said Gary Stevens would work Domestic Dispute on Wednesday and ride him in Dubai.

With Krone out, Halfbridled will get new rider

Halfbridled will have a new jockey for her comeback March 13 in the Santa Anita Oaks, though trainer Richard Mandella politely declined to reveal who would fill in for regular rider Julie Krone, who remains sidelined. Alex Solis has been working Halfbridled regularly, but he already has given trainer Wally Dollase the Oaks call on Las Virgenes Stakes winner A.P. Adventure.

Mandella also said he would wait until Wednesday to announce who would ride Olmodavor in the Big Cap.

Mandella emphasized that both Pleasantly Perfect and Olmodavor would run Saturday. "They're both running. I might re-enter Olmodavor back," for the seven-furlong San Carlos one day later, "but he's 90 percent to run in the Big Cap."

Silent Sighs on track for Santa Anita Oaks

Trainer Julio Canani said Tuesday that Silent Sighs was on target for the Santa Anita Oaks, following a good seven-furlong workout Sunday in 1:26.60. "She worked good, and the track was this deep," Canani said, while holding his hands a foot apart.

David Flores will ride Silent Sighs in the Oaks. In addition to Halfbridled and A.P. Adventure, the Oaks field may include Salty Romance and Hollywood Story.

Ten Most Wanted heads back to California

Ten Most Wanted emerged from the New Orleans Handicap in good shape physically, but trainer Wally Dollase is concerned about the 4-year-old's state of mind following his fifth-place finish on Sunday at Fair Grounds. Ten Most Wanted was bumped and carried wide on the first turn at Fair Grounds, similar to what happened in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"He's okay [physically] - mentally, I can't tell you," Dollase said Tuesday. Referring to the colt's series of troubled trips, Dollase said, "I'm going to have to start treating him like a 2-year-old. He'll be thinking about this now. He got clobbered in the Breeders' Cup, too."

Dollase said Ten Most Wanted was flying back to California on Tuesday. No plans have been made for his next start.

Bluesthestandard works before San Carlos

Bluesthestandard will carry top weight Sunday in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap, a seven-furlong race that 120-pound co-highweights During and Olmodavor are expected to skip. Bluesthestandard worked five furlongs in 57.60 seconds on Monday.

"He looked the same as always; he just went faster," said trainer Ted West, who trains the 7-year-old with his son, Ted. "He's a machine."

Other probable starters are Captain Squire, Casas Caballo, Kela, Marino Marini, Publication, and Pico Central.

Large field expected for San Rafael

A large field of 3-year-olds is expected Saturday for the one-mile Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes on the Big Cap undercard. The probables include Lion Heart, Lucky Pulpit, Quintons Gold Rush, Spellbinder, Castledale, Hosco, Imperialism, Toasted, and Wimplestiltskin.

Probables for Saturday's Grade 2 Frank Kilroe Mile, at a mile on turf, include Designed for Luck, Buckland Manor, Inesperado, Irish Warrior, Needwood Balde, Sarafan, Singletary, Sweet Return, and Wixoe Express.