10/13/2004 11:00PM

Yearly Report simply too good for her elders


ARCADIA, Calif. - There is a simple explanation why the $150,000 California Cup Matron is positioned so early (race 3) on the California Cup card. It's because the 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares shapes up as a mismatch. Might as well get it out of the way before the gambling gets serious.

Saturday at Santa Anita, towers over five rivals in the Matron, the least-appealing wagering contest on an otherwise competitive card. The problem is Yearly Report's main foes - stakes winners Summer Wind Dancer, Royally Chosen, and Dream of Summer - are flawed.

Summer Wind Dancer's current form is uncertain; she ran poorly in her Oct. 3 comeback. Royally Chosen won the 2003 Matron, benefiting from a slow pace. Her subsequent inconsistency and the likelihood of a fast pace on Saturday, in addition to her having skipped a paceless $235,000 race two weeks ago to run for less money Saturday, leaves doubt.

Then there's the Dream of Summer dilemma. A standout sprinter who won back-to-back graded stakes in summer, Dream of Summer is running long for the first time. Trainer Juan Garcia has said the Matron is the only spot to run. Skeptics suggest it is the wrong spot. Dream of Summer's subpar recent works suggest vulnerability at an unfamiliar distance in her first start in two months.

That leaves Yearly Report, whose only imperfection is having never faced older horses until this race. Yearly Report, owned and bred by Betty Mabee's Golden Eagle Farm, reeled off four successive stakes wins to start the year, including two Grade 2's - the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico and Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park. Trainer Bob Baffert shipped her to Saratoga for the Grade 1 Alabama. She caught a wet track, and finished fourth.

Baffert brought her home and pointed her toward the Matron. Yearly Report, by standout California stallion General Meeting, has won 5 races and $715,900 in 7 starts, and should fall into a great trip tucked just off the speed. If she runs back to the high-90's Beyer Speed Figures she earned in spring and summer, Yearly Report should win.

It would be appropriate. Golden Eagle has won more Cal Cup races (seven) than any owner. Corey Nakatani rides Yearly Report, the most probable winner on the card.

Summer Wind Dancer returned Oct. 3 from a 10-week vacation to run in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret. She failed to reproduce her graded stakes wins from June and July. She struggled with the track, raced wide, and finished fourth with a sluggish 87 Beyer. Mullins excuses her effort.

"The 1-post hurt," he said. "She doesn't leave that well anyway. And there was no pace, and she probably needed that race, too."

Summer Wind Dancer drew post 6 in the six-horse field Saturday, and with Dream of Summer and Royally Chosen in the race, the pace should be legitimate. Summer Wind Dancer has won 5 races and $880,762 from 17 starts. Her best race would be enough. Her last race would not. Victor Espinoza rides.

Dream of Summer won graded sprints this summer at Hollywood Park and Del Mar, then ran out of options, according to trainer Garcia. "There are no races to run in," he said. "I know she's a good sprinter . . . I think she can go two turns; she's bred to go two turns. Now is the time to find out."

Bit of Folly and Bartok's Blithe are the outsiders in the field.

The field

California Cup Matron
Purse: $150,000; 1 1/16 miles

1Bit of FollyA. Bison11130-1
2Dream of SummerM. Smith1213-1
3Royally ChosenD. Flores1205-1
4Bartok's BlitheD. Cohen11520-1
5Yearly ReportC. Nakatani1206-5
6Summer Wind DancerV. Espinoza1225-2

* Odds by Michael Hammersly