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Race might mark royal ascension

Jewel Princess is the reigning queen of American racing, and Countess Diana could be lady in waiting to the throne next year.

On Saturday, the 5-year-old Princess steps down, maybe with a second victory in the Breeders' Crown Distaff and maybe with another Eclipse Award as the champion older female.

The same afternoon at Hollywood Park, the Countess tries to wear her first crown by winning the Juvenile Fillies. Her fifth victory in six starts probably would give her the divisional championship.

"It's her last race, so we're going to pull out all the stops," said Jewel Princess trainer Wally Dollase, whose horse has chronic back problems.

It will take a top effort to overcome a field that includes 4-year-olds Hidden Lake, winner of four straight stakes, three of them Grade I, and Clear Mandate, winner of the Keeneland's Spinster Oct. 12; and 3-year-olds Ajina, a double Grade I stakes winner, and Sharp Cat, winner of two straight.

John Kimmel trains Hidden Lake, who won the Beldame on Oct. 19 at Belmont Park; Jewel Princess finished third. He thinks Jewel Princess has to abdicate.

"I think after the Beldame, (Hidden Lake) had done enough in her division to get the Eclipse Award regardless of the outcome of the Breeders' Cup Distaff," Kimmel said last week.

Nine fillies and mares are expected at the 1[-mile Distaff today when post positions are drawn for all seven Breeders' Cup races, including the $4.4-million Classic and the $2-million Turf.

Jewel Princess concluded a fine 1996 season of five victories, three seconds and a third in nine starts with a 1{-length win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 26 at Woodbine.

This year she opened with wins in the Santa Maria and Santa Margarita handicaps at Santa Anita, but she failed to win her past four races, with a second and three straight thirds.

The win in the Santa Margarita on March 9 in 95-degree heat was tough on the 5-year-old mare.

"That race kind of cooked her," Dollase said.

After a third in the Vanity Handicap on July 20 at Hollywood Park, Jewel Princess didn't start again until she finished third in the Beldame. Her back problems were one reason for the layoff.

"Her last race in New York was absolutely what we wanted," Dollase said. "We didn't want to take too much out of her because it was her first race in a long time."

The Beldame also was Hidden Lake's first race since she won the Go for Wand on July 27 at Saratoga.

"Following the Go for Wand, she didn't even make it back to the unsaddling area with the rider on her," Kimmel said. "She had heat prostration. She did make it back to the barn on her own."

Saturday's forecast is for a high of 78 degrees.

Countess Diana is favored in what is expected to be a 14-horse field for the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile Fillies. Silver Maiden, unbeaten in five starts, will not be entered because of a virus.

She won the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades, her first race beyond seven furlongs, by 2} lengths, but Countess Diana was tired at the end. She also shied from a shadow at the top of the stretch. She will wear a shadow roll Saturday.

Stiffness shelves colt

Another horse with a shot at winning was lost Tuesday when trainer John Forbes decided not to enter Tale of the Cat in the Sprint.

Forbes said although nothing was physically wrong, the 3-year-old colt appeared stiff. "I don't want to take a chance," he said.

Tale of the Cat, winner of three of five starts this year, was considered a legitimate contender for the 6-furlong Sprint.

A half interest in the colt recently was sold to Coolmore Stud of Ireland for $7.1-million by Phantom House Farm, a limited partnership formed by Forbes.

Illness or injury have knocked out several prominent horses.

On Friday, Formal Gold, a top contender for the Classic and Horse of the Year, fractured a bone just above his right rear ankle. The 4-year-old colt might race again next year.

The Distaff took a hit when Twice the Vice was retired Sunday after a stress fracture was discovered in her left canon bone. The 6-year-old mare has won more than $1.4-million in her career.

A virus knocked unbeaten filly Silver Maiden out of the Juvenile Fillies and Desert King out of the Turf.