Seeking to recapture the form she displayed last winter and spring, The Thoroughbred Corporation's Habibti will tangle with Madame Pietra in the $70,000-added Corona Handicap for fillies and mares Sunday at Hollywood Park.Habibti, the 121-pound highweight, hit the apex of her career here last December with a victory over You in the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I). She continued to perform well at top levels last winter and spring, finishing second in the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) and third in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) before a summer vacation. Since her return, however, Habibti has turned in two disappointing efforts at Del Mar in September and at Churchill Downs in November.Madame Pietra, a 5-year-old mare assigned 120, has been in the top form of her career. She has recorded two victories and three seconds in her last five starts and comes off an impressive score in the Cascapedia Handicap at Santa Anita Oct. 31.The Corona, at six furlongs, will be a test of Habibti seeking to regain her old form and Madame Pietra attempting to stay sharp."Habibti got really light on me this spring and wasn't doing well," said trainer Bob Baffert Thursday from his Santa Anita base. "All horses take a lull, and Habibti has really started to come around again lately. I also nominated her to the Bayakoa (Dec. 15) but she might go here rather than 1 1/16 miles."Asked about Madame Pietra for the Corona, trainer Howie Zucker quipped, "If she wins, I'll find a cold one (Corona) somewhere."Madame Pietra has won four of 13 starts and earned $191,685 for owner Carl Grether of Pasadena. "She made her first start at Hollywood Park and had a troubled trip as a longshot," recalled Zucker before her return. "I raced her sparingly as a young filly; she was not very hardy. But she's turned into a hickory mare. If she runs back to her Cascapedia, I don't know who would beat her."
Proving she does not have to take her track with her, Madame Pietra has run well at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Golden Gate Fields this year. $70,000-added Corona Handicap, fillies & mares, 1 1/6 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Rider, Wgt.
1. Se Me Acabo, Alex Solis, 114
2. Wild Tickle, Laffit Pincay Jr., 116
3. Madame Pietra, Patrick Valenzuela, 120
4. Habibti, Victor Espinoza, 121
5. Channing Way, Chance Rollins, 119
6. Rollette, Mike Smith, 114