08/05/2005 12:00AM

Two turns a question for 'Kisses'


DEL MAR, Calif. - Alphabet Kisses will live or die on the front end Sunday at Del Mar, where she tries to stretch her speed two turns in the Grade 2 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap for fillies and mares.

Seven others in the 1 1/16-mile race will try to upset Alphabet Kisses, a one-turn specialist racing outside her comfort zone in the two-turn, $300,000 Hirsch. Trainer Marty Jones notes the challenge.

"At seven-eighths she has been really tough, but when she runs long she hasn't been," he said.

is 5 for 6 in dirt sprints, including two graded stakes. But in two-turn races on dirt, she is only 1 for 4. The Hirsch topweight at 120 pounds, Alphabet Kisses faces a good group that includes the graded stakes winners Girl Warrior, Hollywood Story, and Star Parade, and the millionaire California-bred Valentine Dancer.

For Alphabet Kisses and jockey David Flores to win, Jones said she must shake loose.

"Going short, she controls her own fate," he said. "Going long, she doesn't want to be chasing anyone."

Alphabet Kisses has won 7 of 13 and earned $559,639.

was no match for Alphabet Kisses when they finished one-two in a seven-furlong sprint July 9 at Hollywood. However, the dynamics change over a distance of ground. Valentine Dancer is established at a route, and if the pace works against the favorite, it could benefit Valentine Dancer.

"It depends on how the race sets up," said Craig Lewis, who trains Valentine Dancer. "Alphabet Kisses will go [to the front], Star Parade could go, and I could go if I want."

With 8 wins from 24 starts for earnings of $1,078,126, Valentine Dancer is the fourth-leading California-bred female earner. A win Sunday would move her into second, behind Fran's Valentine ($1,375,465).

Seeking her first win in a graded stakes, Valentine Dancer could fall into a good trip, and she enters in peak form.

"She's doing good right now," Lewis said. "She's just a real consistent mare that runs every time. She doesn't run bad ones."

has not raced since Jan. 16, when she won the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes at Santa Anita. The layoff is not an issue. Girl Warrior won her U.S. debut at Del Mar last summer following a layoff, she has trained well for her comeback, and she will be positioned right behind the speed.