11/16/2003 12:00AM

Victory U.S.A. finds company to her liking


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Foiled in three consecutive Grade 1 races, Victory U.S.A. ($2.40) responded to a drop in class Sunday at Hollywood Park, where she won the $100,000 by seven lengths. More important, the 2-year-old filly did it the way trainer Bob Baffert hoped, rallying from behind and looking like a genuine contender for the Grade 1, mile and a sixteenth Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 21.

"We want her to learn to run that way, if she can run that way the farther she can go," Baffert said. Julie Krone rode Victory U.S.A. for the first time, and the filly rated comfortably in fifth position. She rallied three-wide around the far turn, hit front in deep stretch and pulled clear in 1:22.50 over a track that played considerably slower than the day earlier.

Quanah County set the pace and held second, two lengths in front of Hot Weekend. Completing the order of finish were Steal My Kisses, Luckbealadytonight and Vino Tinto. Victory U.S.A., owned by Tom Van Meter, was winning for the second time in five starts. Following her maiden win on Aug. 3, she placed in three straight Grade 1s, including a third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies her last start Oct. 25. There was $656,065 in the Moccasin show pool; $625,078 on Victory U.S.A, creating a minus pool of $115,657.