04/13/2005 12:00AM

For an underdog, Megahertz sure wins a lot


ARCADIA, Calif. - The underdog qualities in Megahertz have made her one of trainer Bobby Frankel's favorites in the last few years. Her reputation is poised to grow even further this year.

Sunday, Megahertz tries for an unprecedented third consecutive win in the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita. A victory would mark her 11th stakes win, an achievement that seemed unlikely for the former French claimer, who is not lavishly bred and is well on the small side.

But with major stakes wins throughout Southern California in the last three years, Megahertz has earned her way into Frankel's personal Hall of Fame, along with such notable fillies and mares as Honest Lady, Possibly Perfect, and Sightseek.

"I've been fortunate to have some great fillies," Frankel said. "She's one of them. You find a special place in your heart for them."

After Megahertz won the Santa Ana Handicap on March 20 in her 2005 debut, Frankel admitted that his emotions got the better of him.

"It brings tears to my eyes to watch her run," he said. "She's little and she just does things that amaze you all the time. It's just unbelievable."

This season is probably the final year of Megahertz's career, which makes her start in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap all the more poignant for Frankel and owner Michael Bello.

Since arriving in the United States in the winter of 2001-02, Megahertz has won such major races as the 2002 American Oaks (following the disqualification of Dublino from first to second), the Grade 1 John Mabee Handicap at Del Mar in 2003, and the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap last year.

Arguably, her most impressive performance last year was a second in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles, a rare start against males. She rallied from ninth to finish a head behind Pellegrino.

When she returned in the Santa Ana last month, she rallied from last in the field of seven to win by a measured half-length, showing her typical determination.

"She's a nice filly to be around, but she's a little on the mean side," Frankel said. "And she's tiny."

There were discussions last fall about retiring Megahertz and sending her to be bred, but those plans were canceled. A successful season could push her earnings of $1,571,594 past the $2 million mark. She has won 11 of 29 starts.

"She's fairly sound, but she's only got a so-so pedigree," Frankel said. "If she runs all year, she could win another $500,000. They'll probably breed her next year."

Often, horses are sold after their racing careers are over. But Frankel doesn't think Bello will sell Megahertz.

"I think they'll keep her," Frankel said. "They've grown attached to her."

Few lined up for Santa Barbara

Megahertz will carry top weight of 123 pounds in the Santa Barbara, which is run at 1 1/4 miles on turf. She will not have many opponents. As of Wednesday, the list of probable starters included Ask for the Moon, Hoh Buzzard, Midwife, Moscow Burning, and Uraib. All are stakes winners.

Saturday's $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 3/4 miles on turf will have a larger field.

Led by Stanley Park, the winner of the San Luis Rey Handicap on March 26, the Grade 2 San Juan will include 2003 runner-up All the Boys, Exterior, Fitz Flag, Habaneros, Lineout, Mondeville, and Special Matter.

All the Boys, who was trained by Paul Aguirre in 2003, was claimed for $50,000 by trainer Jeff Mullins and Bob Bone in February and has subsequently won twice - an optional claimer and an allowance race.

Sweet Catomine to have precautionary tests

Sweet Catomine, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2004 who was fifth in the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday, is scheduled to undergo a precautionary nuclear scan test on Friday or Monday, trainer John Shirreffs said.

Sweet Catomine arrived at Shirreffs's barn on Monday after a split between owner Marty Wygod and trainer Julio Canani following the filly's loss.

Sweet Catomine may not be with Shirreffs for long. Wygod said last weekend that Sweet Catomine is likely to be trained on the East Coast later this year.

Shirreffs said Sweet Catomine jogged on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We're just assessing her," he said. "We'll do a lot of diagnostics. If we need to have an X-ray, we'll do that. We want to make sure everything is okay."

The California Horse Racing Board has filed a complaint against Wygod for his alleged actions in the days leading up to the Santa Anita Derby. In a complaint issued Monday, the board alleged that documents were falsified when Sweet Catomine was transported to an equine clinic for two days last week and that Wygod made misleading statements about the filly that were detrimental to racing.

Wygod denies any wrongdoing. He and van driver Dean Kerkhoff are scheduled to appear before the Hollywood Park board of stewards on April 23.

Desormeaux to ride part-time in Japan

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, who rode in Japan in 2001 and 2003, said earlier this week that he plans to ride there on occasion in coming weeks.

Desormeaux said he will ride in Japan on April 23 but would return to Hollywood Park for the Gold Rush program for California-breds on April 24, if needed.

"We'll see what California wants to do with me," he said. "If they don't need me, Japan would be happy to have me."

Desormeaux has a contender for the Kentucky Derby in Illinois Derby winner Greeley's Galaxy. Trained by Warren Stute for B. Wayne Hughes, Greeley's Galaxy must be supplemented for the Derby at a cost of $200,000, and will be excluded from the race if 20 nominated horses are entered.

Saturday, Desormeaux rides Special Matter in the San Juan Capistrano and Chinese Dragon in the $100,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Through Sunday, Desormeaux was seventh in the jockey standings with 34 wins. Patrick Valenzuela led the standings with 59 wins, five more than Rene Douglas and Tyler Baze, who were tied for second.