04/20/2005 11:00PM

Wilshire has tigress of its own


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Okay, ladies. It's safe to come out now. That big, bad Megahertz - all 850 pounds of her - did her usual number in the Santa Barbara Handicap last weekend and has gone back into her cage, where she will snarl and growl and eat red meat until Bobby Frankel and Michael Bello decide to turn her loose again.

That could come in the $350,000 Gamely Handicap at Hollywood at the end of May, although the Megahertz camp might even start looking at races against the boys. Pity the boys.

In the meantime, an event like the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap on Saturday at Hollywood Park provides an opportunity for new blood to flow into California's female turf division. At a mile on firm, newly renovated sod, the race kicks off the serious grass program of the spring and summer, and the winner must be respected. Recent Wilshires have been won by Dublino, Tranquility Lake, and Tout Charmant, and in its more distant, 1 1/16-mile past by champions Possibly Perfect, Outstandingly and Track Robbery.

Mea Domina will have a chance to join such company when she goes after her fifth win, and third straight, in nine starts for Ron McAnally and Janis Whitham. Gary Stevens is in Kentucky, so Tyler Baze gets the call, which should not faze the filly in the least. She has won for them both.

Mea Domina is a daughter of Dance Brightly and Madame Pandit, representing a third generation in one of Whitham's best Thoroughbred families.

Announcers take note: Whitham prefers the pronuciation ME-a do-MI-na, with its lyrical, internal rhyme scheme and Mediteranean flair.

"Just let it run off your tongue," Whitham said when reached this week at her cattle ranch near the western Kansas town of Leoti. "If you look in the dictionary under 'madam,' the Latin for 'my lady' is 'mea domina.' That was just too good to pass up. Besides, she looks just like her mother, only littler."

California fans recall Madame Pandit as a fiercely competitive daughter of Wild Again who won a pair of sprint stakes on turf for McAnally and placed in the 1998 Santa Monica, splitting Exotic Wood and Advancing Star in one of the best renewals of that seven-furlong event. Whitham thought Mea Domina might have inherited Madame Pandit's ability to perform with equal zest on both turf and dirt, but so far, that wish has not come true. All four of her wins have come on grass, while her only poor finish was a sixth after breaking badly in the La Brea Stakes in late December.

"She didn't have much of a chance in that race," Whitham said of the La Brea. "Once you fall out of the gate like that, when you're as nutty as she is, well, that was her race right there.

"But there seems to be something about the grass that makes her feel - I don't know - like she can beat somebody up," Whitham added. "When she lays it down in the lane, she's just throwing it all out there. Her mother was a pretty serious racehorse, too. You wouldn't want to step in front her when she was running."

The McAnally-Whitham association caught fire in the late 1980's with two-time champion mare Bayakoa, a member of the Hall of Fame, and has continued to burn brightly with subsequent stakes stars Ibero, Toda Una Dama, Listening, Affluent, Tight Spot, Mud Route, and Cleante. Frank Whitham, Jan's husband, was killed in the crash of his private jet in 1993, leaving Jan and her children to carry on with the family business that include feed lots, banks, beef cattle, and Thoroughbreds.

In Jan Whitham, Hall of Famer McAnally has a patron who knows horses from stem to stern, and he respects her judgements accordingly. For her part, Whitham pokes occasional fun at her conservative trainer, wondering when he might cut loose and do something that is not straight out of the old school curriculum.

"It's a battle with him just to jump an allowance condition," Whitham said, giving McAnally a good-natured ribbing from afar. "But I feel that when you're going good, take a shot. Don't worry about all those allowance conditions. When your horse is going good, that's the time to do it."

They tried it in the H.C. Ramser Handicap last October, when Mea Domina was fresh from breaking her maiden, and it worked. On Saturday, McAnally and Whitham will find out if their latest collaboration is ready to mix it up with the best.

Silent Witness goes for 17th win

Just because it isn't happening here doesn't mean it isn't happening. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, North American time, the 5-year-old Australian-bred horse named Silent Witness will attempt to win his 17th straight race without a defeat in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup at Sha Tin Racecouse in suburban Hong Kong.

You heard right - 17. True enough, they all have come in Hong Kong, but Silent Witness has defeated international fields twice in the last two runnings of the Hong Kong Sprint. There has been talk of taking Silent Witness on the road after the Queen's Jubilee - to Europe or America - and even a showdown with Ghostzapper. But let's not get ahead of the game. And hats off to TVG for offering live coverage of the event. Tape is rolling.