12/18/2003 1:00AM

Two hit crossroad in Dahlia


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Blind Ambition and Moscow Burning, who scored two of the most impressive wins on the California Cup program at Santa Anita on Nov. 8, return in Saturday's $150,000 Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood Park. How they run could determine how ambitiously they will be campaigned in the coming months.

Both California-breds, Blind Ambition and Moscow Burning deserve respect in a wide-open Dahlia Handicap, run over 1 1/16 miles on turf for fillies and mares.

Blind Ambition, 5, won the California Cup Distaff by 2 1/2 lengths. Moscow Burning won the Distance Handicap by the same margin.

Blind Ambition has never been worse than second in eight starts but is making her graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 Dahlia. For the first time in her career, she will not be favored.

"This is the toughest race she's ever run in," said trainer Marty Jones. "We'll find out how good she is."

Blind Ambition finished second in the Fran's Valentine Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf here last April. The Distaff was her first start after a four-month layoff.

"She wasn't doing well at Del Mar," Jones said. "She had ulcers that flared up."

Moscow Burning has won her last three starts and has shown remarkable form since she was claimed for $25,000 by a partnership and trainer Jim Cassidy at the Bay Meadows Fair last August.

The Distance Handicap was her first stakes win and third start in a month. After that race, Cassidy considered waiting for a stakes on the Sunshine Millions program Jan. 24, but opted to try the Dahlia.

"She raced so close together that we thought we'd wait for the Sunshine Millions, but she's pretty tough right now," Cassidy said.

Moscow Burning, 3, was bred and previously owned by John Harris, who owns Blind Ambition. For Harris and partners, Moscow Burning won 3 of 4 starts in claiming races on the northern California circuit. Overall, she has won 6 of 8 starts and $170,565.

"I don't know how good she is; you don't know until you get in against these," Cassidy said. "She'd be worth a lot more money if she can hit the board."

Cassidy also starts Katdogawn, who won the Manhattan Beach and San Clemente handicaps during the summer.

Katdogawn, 3, was being considered for the Monrovia Handicap on the Santa Anita hillside turf course Dec. 29, but Cassidy said the timing and the distance of the Dahlia are a better fit.

House of Fortune works for Starlet

House of Fortune, a top contender for Sunday's Hollywood Starlet Stakes, worked a half-mile in 46.60 seconds at Santa Anita on Thursday.

There are six fillies probable for the Starlet, run over 1 1/16 miles. Victory U. S. A., who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and returned to win the Moccasin Stakes on Nov. 16, may go favored. House of Fortune, who won the California Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 8, will not be far behind her in the betting.

Other likely starters are Dixie High, Hollywood Story, Rahy Dolly, and Rings and Things.

No Cajun Beat leads to bigger Malibu field

The defection of Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat from the $250,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita this Friday for the Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park in January will result in a large field for the Malibu.

As of Thursday, there were as many as 14 probables for the Grade 1 stakes over seven furlongs. The candidates include Baltic Heights, Blazonry, Buddy Gil, During, Domestic Dispute, Eye of the Tiger, Marino Marini, Midas Eyes, Posse, Southern Image, Special Rate, Toccet, Watchem Smokey, and Zavata.

Zavata won the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga in the summer but was unplaced in the King's Bishop there and the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, before finishing 12th of 13 in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Thursday, Zavata worked six furlongs in 1:10.20 from the gate at Santa Anita, the fastest of 21 recorded works at the distance. Trainer Patrick Biancone has not settled on a jockey for Zavata.

Jockey Stevens will keep his day job

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens said on Thursday he has no set plans to stop riding in coming weeks or months to pursue acting but is hoping to gain future film roles.

Last winter, Stevens took a 3 1/2-month break from riding to play the role of George Woolf in "Seabiscuit."

"I have nothing on paper on acting commitments," he said. "There are some things that are in the works. My intention is to continue to ride until something is definite. I'm not going to stop riding with the kind of horses I'm riding."

Stevens won the On Trust Handicap last weekend with Excess Summer, and this weekend, he rides That's an Outrage in Saturday's Futurity. In the Malibu, he rides Buddy Gil, whom Stevens rode to a victory in the Santa Anita Derby.

Stevens returned from a seven-week break last weekend. During that time, he promoted "Seabiscuit" overseas and recovered from the lingering effects of a spill suffered in August at Arlington Park.

Palos Verdes next for Bluesthestandard

Bluesthestandard, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in October, will make his next start in the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap over six furlongs Feb. 1.

Bluesthestandard had been considered for the $100,000 El Conejo Handicap over 5 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 1.

"We were thinking about the El Conejo, but this gives us more time from the Breeders' Cup and I think he's better going six," West said. "I think his best distance is farther than six furlongs."

Avanzado, a two-time stakes winner this year and the runner-up in the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai last March, will start in the El Conejo. Trained by Doug O'Neill, Avanzado breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 at Hollywood Park on Thursday.