09/02/2002 11:00PM

Turf marathon ideal for Brazilian duo

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Here come the girls from Ipanema. Trainer Eduardo Inda sends out a pair of mares from Brazil at Del Mar in Thursday's featured $75,000 Thoroughbred Owners of California Inc. Handicap, a name that takes almost as long to say as it will for the race to be run.

The wide-open, 1 3/8-mile grass race has lured a field of nine fillies and mares, and though a case can be made for about half the field, Inda has strength in numbers, with his Brazilian-bred tag team of Tropical Lady and Canzone, both of whom figure to thrive at the distance. Inda's mares are not owned by the same persons, so they will race as separate betting interests.

Tropical Lady, a Group 2 winner in her native land, has yet to win in seven starts since arriving in this country more than one year ago. She ran a deceptively good race in the Osunitas Handicap here on Aug. 14. It was her first start in five months, following throat surgery, and her closing charge was impacted by a dawdling early pace.

"She ran a very good race last time," Inda said. "She was trapped behind horses. She started her run a little late. We've been looking for a long race for her. She seems like the kind that wants to go long. The distance should help her.

"She has had an entrapped epiglottis twice," Inda added. "She had it after her first race in this country, and then again earlier this year. Fortunately, we were able to operate again."

Canzone has been facing far stronger competition of late and should appreciate this softer spot. She also was far more accomplished than Tropical Lady in their native land. Canzone captured a pair of Group 1 races in Brazil, including a 1 1/2-mile turf race against males that she won by 5 1/2 lengths in an 18-horse field.

Canzone has won once in four starts in this country, but lately has been facing the likes of Affluent, Astra, Golden Apples, and Janet. She was fifth in the Grade 1 Ramona Handicap here last time out July 27.

"She's been running with some very nice fillies," Inda said. "She was one of the top fillies in Brazil before she came here. She should like the distance. Her best races are going long."

Nepenthe, who has not raced since May, might be the biggest threat to Inda's duo. Nepenthe is a long-distance specialist who won a similar 1 3/8-mile grass race on this course one year ago.

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