11/17/2003 12:00AM

Victory U. S. A. tries to escape from Halfbridled's shadow

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Julie Krone did not take the bait. After winning the Moccasin Stakes on Victory U. S. A., her third of four wins Sunday, Krone was asked to compare Victory U. S. A. with unbeaten Halfbridled, whom Krone has ridden in all four of her starts.

"I'm not saying anything," said Krone, smiling. "All I know is I appreciate riding her."

It will be some time before Victory U. S. A. and Halfbridled meet. The Grade 1 Las Virgenes on Feb. 15 at Santa Anita is one possibility, giving Victory U. S. A. enough time to learn a few things. Victory U. S. A.'s next start will come in the Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 21.

A 2-year-old filly, Victory U. S. A. got hot in the Hollywood Park paddock Sunday, which was not the first time she has lost her cool.

"She had a little meltdown," said trainer Bob Baffert. "We'll bring her over early for the Starlet."

Baffert said Victory U. S. A. shipped Sunday morning from Santa Anita to Hollywood. It was her first start at Hollywood.

Krone rode Halfbridled in the Del Mar Debutante when Victory U. S. A. was the 3-5 favorite, and was scouting Victory U. S. A. that day.

"She was quite hot at Del Mar, too," Krone said of Victory U. S. A.

Baffert credited Krone for helping Victory U. S. A. settle in the post parade and the race. "She's a very smart rider," he said. "She actually got her to relax."

Gill has rough start at Hollywood

On his way to dominating the Gulfstream Park winter meet one year ago, owner Michael Gill and trainer Mark Shuman won with three of their first seven Gulfstream starters.

The country's leading owner, Gill is off to a humble start at the Hollywood Park fall meet. Two of his runners finished third Sunday - 6-5 favorite Hagerstown in race 7 and 8-1 longshot Dr. Dubai in race 8. Gill and his trainer here, Nick Canani, have started six runners at Hollywood; few have run well.

Glick finished seventh at odds of 5-1 on Nov. 7; Sterling Wisdom finished fourth Nov. 14 at 9-5; Ruben's Posada finished last Nov. 14 at 5-1; Big Bonus finished fifth Nov. 15 at 5-1; followed by Hagerstown and Dr. Dubai.

It is far from over, of course. Gill's local inventory includes the 28 horses he has claimed in Southern California since Oct. 24, for a total cost of $780,500. The worry for California racing secretaries is that Gill's runners will prove noncompetitive, and that Gill will ship out of state to an easier circuit following the Dec. 21 conclusion of the Hollywood meet.

Megahertz to face males

The 4-year-old filly Megahertz will take on males Saturday in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles. The race marks a change in plans for Megahertz, who will try to become the second female to win the Turf Cup and the first since Miss Alleged won the race in 1991 for trainer Charlie Whittingham.

Bobby Frankel, trainer of Megahertz, said he wanted to run her in the Las Palmas Nov. 9 at Santa Anita, but the race was canceled. Frankel said he would have pointed her for the Nov. 30 Matriarch had the race still been 1 1/8 miles, but it has been shortened to a mile.

"I was going to ship her to Kentucky for the Cardinal next week, but they're having bad weather there," he said.

Megahertz will be supplemented for $12,500 and carry 123 pounds in the weight-for-age Turf Cup; males will carry 126 pounds. Along with Staging Post and Epicentre, Megahertz will be one of three Frankel-trained runners in the Turf Cup. The other five horses expected in the field are East Coast shipper Bowman Mill, front-runner The Tin Man, Labirinto, Runaway Dancer, and Like a Hero.

* The Sunday stakes at Hollywood is the $70,000 Audrey Skirball-Kenis for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Expected runners include Fencelineneighbor, Katdowgawn, Quero Quero, Shezsospirtiual, and Valdoura.

* At least 11 runners are aiming for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 30. The turf race for 3-year-olds, lengthened to 1 1/4 miles this year, is expected to include Fairly Ransom, Urban King, Senor Swinger, Californian, Stanley Park, Buckland Manor, Alberto Giacometti, Darinski, Kicken Kris, Sign of the Wolf, and Sweet Return.

* Dress to Thrill and Dedication were scheduled to be flown Monday from New York to California to prepare for a start in the Grade 1 Matriarch. Dress to Thrill won the Matriarch last year for trainer Dermot Weld; she has won 1 of 4 this year. Among the early probables for the Matriarch are Belleski, Etoile Montante, and Musical Chimes.

* Hollywood Park has scheduled "Track Diva Day" for Nov. 30, an all-day affair featuring several top female racetrack personalities. Television host Joanne Jones will host the all-day event, which will include Michelle Barsotti, jockey agent for Ryan Fogelsonger; Lauren Stich, pedigree handicapper for Daily Racing Form; and Laura de Seroux, trainer of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri.