12/06/2004 12:00AM

A vintage season for 3-year-old fillies

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ALBANY, Calif. - The 3-year-old filly division has been strong all year in northern California.

Arguably the best was Bending Strings, who began her career in Jerry Hollendorfer's barn and has since become a multiple graded-stakes winner back East.

Heavenly Humor, her stablemate, has won two stakes but hasn't run since her victory last spring in the San Jose at Bay Meadows.

There is plenty of depth, and, as Factual Lady proved last week, the classy older filly and mare sprinters around here will have their work cut out for them if they expect to hold off next year's 4-year-olds.

Factual Lady improved her career record to 5 for 5 when she defeated Pheiffer and Christmas Time, the best older female sprinters this side of Ema Bovary, on Nov. 27. Factual Lady earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for her victory.

Also trailing Factual Lady that day was 3-year-old Lyin Goddess, who won the Juan Gonzalez Memorial Stakes in her 2-year-old debut.

Vaca City Flyer, a onetime claimer, recorded a 96 Beyer when she won a $50,000 optional claimer on Nov. 17. It was her third straight victory and sixth in seven starts.

The filly she beat by three lengths that day is Yerevan Star, who certainly fits snugly into the category of top 3-year-old fillies.

Yerevan Star should be primed

Yerevan Star, with a race under her belt after a 10-week layoff, looms the one to beat as eight fillies meet in a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs in Wednesday's feature. Seven of the eight runners are 3-year-olds.

Yerevan Star won the Fairfield Stakes at Solano in her third career start last summer.

Go Ask Daisy, who won the Mid Peninsula last year as a 2-year-old, and My Charmian, who defeated Yerevan Star in her debut, are also in the field.

Luisathebeachhouse and Beezer dead-heated for first in their last race. Callmelauryn returns from a nearly nine-month layoff with three straight wins, all at 1 1/16 miles.

Trainer Gloria Haley is excited that Yerevan Star is back in action after getting that freshener following a poor effort at one mile in the Torrey Pines at Del Mar on Sept. 4.

"She likes what she does," Haley said. "She's a very hot filly, and I don't think Mr. [Mike] Smith knew how tough she is to handle when he rode her down there. It was just a wreck, and then she had a tough trip home."

Yerevan Star hopped at the start and bore out as she ran last all the way. She did make a big mid-race move before stopping.

Yerevan Star was fifth in her debut but came back to win a maiden race and then the Fairfield. Joe Castro, who rode her in her first three starts, will be back aboard after recovering from a fractured collarbone.

"Joe cares a lot about her," Haley said. "He came out and worked her before her last start."

Yerevan Star's debut was better than it looks on paper.

"The first race she wasn't quite as schooled as she should have been because we rushed her up a bit," Haley said. "I just think she needed to learn what she was supposed to do."

Haley isn't worried that Yerevan Star drew the rail. She has enough speed to avoid being shuffled back, and Haley said, "She likes to look 'em in the eye."

After Wednesday's race, Haley plans to stretch out her budding star.

Bluesthestandard may go in Oakland

The $50,000-added Oakland Handicap drew 12 nominees in what could be a very competitive six-furlong sprint Saturday.

Bluesthestandard, last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up who is creeping up on the million-dollar mark in earnings, has the best credentials, but he will have seven other stakes winners and Bay Meadows track record holder Trickey Trevor taking their shots at him.

Nine-furlong races in condition book

Sean Greely, Golden Gate Fields' new racing secretary, has persuaded trainers to run races at 1 1/8 miles.

"Some trainers expressed an interest in doing it when I first arrived," Greely said. "I've always liked distance races. Unfortunately, the trend in racing is shorter and shorter.

"Some horses can't go a mile and an eighth, but most that go a mile and a sixteenth can."

Greely said he thinks 1 1/8 miles could actually be beneficial for horses.

"This distance lets horses relax without having to sprint into the turn," he said.

* Jockey David Lopez was suspended three days (Friday through Sunday) "for failure to make a proper effort to maintain a straight course in the stretch and causing interference" aboard Opening Act in last Thursday's third race.

* Trainer Jackie Payton was fined $1,000 for the presence of the unapproved substance Dextrorphan in the mule Smoking Joe after his Oct. 15 victory at Fresno.