11/14/2003 12:00AM

Victory U. S. A. lays over 'em


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 25, and first choice for the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 21, Victory U. S. A. only needed a plan to get there. Two months is a long time.

"I didn't want to sit on her so long before the Starlet, and I have to work her seven-eighths anyway," trainer Bob Baffert said. So rather than train, Victory U. S. A. will race - seven furlongs Sunday in the $100,000 Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park.

She enters with such an enormous advantage that racing secretary Martin Panza positioned the Moccasin as race 3 on the nine-race card, and out of the pick six. So if you want a pick six single, you will have to wait for Baffert's $2.7 million 2-year-old maiden Diamond Fury in race 5.

Six 2-year-old fillies entered the seven-furlong Moccasin, though not all will start. Stakes-placed Hot Weekend could be the second choice, unless she skips the Moccasin and runs next weekend at Bay Meadows. Other entrants are stakes-placed Quanah County, Vino Tinto, Steal My Kisses, and Luckbealadytonight.

By every measure, including speed, Victory U. S. A. stands out. The lowest Beyer Figure in her four-race career, 84, is the better than the top figure of any of her opponents. Further, Victory U. S. A.'s three in-the-money finishes in Grade 1's - the Del Mar Debutante, Frizette at Belmont, and Breeders' Cup - stamp her as one of the leaders of her crop.

As long as Halfbridled is on the shelf, Victory U. S. A. is the West Coast 2-year-old filly division leader.

Meanwhile, Halfbridled's jockey, Julie Krone, was looking for something to ride, and she gets her chance Sunday when she climbs on Victory U. S. A. for the first time. "Maybe Julie can get her to relax," Baffert said.

Owned by Tom Van Meter, Victory U. S. A. was being considered for the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs, but "she's already shipped once this year," Baffert said, referring to an early-October trip to Belmont. Victory U. S. A. has worked twice since the Breeders' Cup. Said Baffert, "She's doing really fine."

Quanah County adds blinkers and is likely to show speed, along with Luckbealadytonight, who won an $80,000 maiden claimer in her last start. Vino Tinto finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Steal My Kisses shortens to one turn.

In race 5, Diamond Fury makes his first start since a third-place finish in his Aug. 30 debut at Del Mar. He came out of the race with a minor foot problem, but has worked well for his return.

"He's had little things," Baffert said. "He's doing pretty good now."