04/17/2007 11:00PM

Turf beats not running for dirt filly


ARCADIA, Calif. - In an ideal situation, Velvet Moonlite would be racing on dirt and not in an optional claimer on turf at Santa Anita on Friday.

But trainer Clifford Sise has watched in frustration in recent weeks as suitable dirt races failed to draw sufficient entries. If Velvet Moonlite is going to start before the Santa Anita meeting ends on Sunday, it will have to be in Friday's race over a mile, which has drawn a field of six.

"I'd rather run her on the dirt, but we couldn't get the race to go," Sise said. "Her dirt races are good and her turf races aren't bad."

Velvet Moonlite, 4, has won 2 of 7 starts. She led throughout an optional claimer over a mile on dirt on March 15, winning by a half-length. In her most recent start on turf, she was sixth in an allowance race over 1 1/4 miles after leading to the eighth pole. Last October here, she finished second in a starter allowance over a mile on turf.

Considering she began her career in a $40,000 claiming race for maidens last summer, when Johnson and Sise acquired her, Velvet Moonlite has had a successful career.

As a front-runner, Velvet Moonlite figures to play a prominent role in the outcome of the race. She is quicker than Sweet Dee's, who has shown speed at times, and is likely to be in front of Princess Ezra, who runs near the front.

"She can rate a little bit," Sise said.

Velvet Moonlite will need an early advantage to hold off Keladora, a promising 4-year-old filly trained by Bobby Frankel. Keladora finished fourth after a wide trip in her U.S. debut in an allowance race on the hillside turf course on Feb. 15.

In France last year, Keladora finished last of 16 in the French Oaks, but she should not be criticized too harshly for that race since she served as a pacesetter for stablemate Germance, who finished second.

Stakes-placed in two listed races in France in 2005, Keladora won an allowance race over a mile in France last September, her most recent victory. She will be ridden by Richard Migliore.

Princess Ezra could be a threat. She is winless in six starts since October 2005, but has won on this turf course.

The optional claimer is the seventh race on an eight-race program. The track had listed nine possible races in the condition book, but could draw adequate entries for only eight races.