06/03/2004 11:00PM

Turf filly dangerous on dirt


PHOENIX - Makeup artists have been in the spotlight lately with make-over shows all the rage on television. Makeup Artist the filly is hoping for similar attention in Sunday's Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap at Hollywood Park, and in manner of speaking she, too, is trying to reinvent herself.

Makeup Artist, a 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer trained by John Shirreffs, finished second in her career debut at Hollywood in December 2002. That race was on the dirt. She then switched to turf, where she won her maiden at Santa Anita before a nice second in the Providencia Stakes. She won the Senorita Stakes last May at Hollywood and things looked bright with races such as the American Oaks and Del Mar Oaks looming. That's when things went south.

She had to undergo emergency colic surgery the following week. It turned out she was sidelined for 11 months before returning at Hollywood on April 25 in the Grade 3 Wilshire on the turf. She finished sixth, but the good news was that at least she was back.

Shirreffs believes that race has her fit and that she's ready to pick up where she left off as a 3-year-old in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Hawthorne. The Hawthorne is not on turf, where Makeup Artist made her reputation, but Shirreffs is convinced the surface won't be an issue.

"She worked well a couple of days ago," said Shirreffs, pointing out she went six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.40. "She trains well on dirt."

It won't be the toughest Hawthorne around. Hollywood has altered its stakes schedule for fillies and mares this meet. The Hawthorne used to be the first such stakes, followed by the Milady then the Vanity. This year, however, the Vanity came first, and with other races around the country luring away some of the West's top older females, Makeup Artist doesn't have to face the likes of Azeri, Sightseek, Island Fashion, Wild Spirit, or Got Koko. And the top three from the Vanity - Victory Encounter, Adoration, and Star Parade - are not back for more.

Pesci may well go favored off an 8 1/2-length romp in an allowance race here on April 30.

But with her troubles behind her and a race under her belt, I'm expecting to see that Makeup Artist cleans up awfully nicely.

Keep an eye on My Miss Storm Cat

It's the time of the year that future stars begin to make a splash. I was enormously impressed with Three Chimneys Juvenile winner Lunarpal, and he loomed as a prohibitive favorite in Saturday's Kentucky BC at Churchill Downs. He's on a path to Saratoga for trainer Steve Asmussen, who did so well last year with Cuvee.

On the filly side, however, things have been more quiet. That is, until May 29. Normally Bob Baffert's big 2-year-olds start emerging at the end of Hollywood or the start of Del Mar. Apparently Baffert couldn't wait any longer with My Miss Storm Cat. The oddly named filly (she's actually a daughter of Sea of Secrets, who was by Storm Cat) blasted out of the gate in her debut at Hollywood last Saturday, and despite being pressed through fast early splits she completely dismantled a promising bunch by 10 under no pressure from rider David Flores.

Her 99 Beyer was the fastest by any 2-year-old, male or female, this year going into this weekend. In fact, a 93, posted the day after by promising male Diligent Prospect (also at Hollywood) is the closest any other 2-year-old has come. Only one other horse - Actxecutive, who got a 91 at Calder on Monday - has broken 90. Previous top Baffert fillies, such as Silverbulletday (86 Beyer), Excellent Meeting (74), Yearly Report (87), and Victory U. S. A. (84) didn't come close to having the same kind of debut. Only Chilukki, who posted Beyers of 109-93-98-98 in her first four starts looks comparable, and she turned out pretty good, didn't she?

Don't tinker with Triple Crown

The notion of changing the Triple Crown is ludicrous. It's got nothing to do with tradition. It's simply common sense that you don't mess with the most recognizable three races in your sport. Other sports have changed playoff structures but the Super Bowl and World Series remain the same. And even though baseball hasn't had a .400 hitter in more than half a century, you don't see anyone talking about counting walks or something equally ludicrous just to get another .400 hitter. You don't see the PGA making the hole larger so it can get more 59's in the books.

The Triple Crown is what it is. It's supposed to be hard. Hands off.