01/06/2006 1:00AM

Barancella's long wait may soon be over

Star Parade is winless on turf, but can't be counted out on Sunday.

PHOENIX - For Barancella it may well be a case of better late than never. Sunday's Grade 2 San Gorgonio at nine furlongs on the Santa Anita turf gives her the chance to reclaim the spotlight in the filly and mare turf division.

Barancella stamped herself a comer in 2004 when as a 3-year-old she rubbed elbows with some of the elite of her class in France and then came to the U.S. and showed enormous potential with two good seconds in Grade 1 races. Certainly trainer Bobby Frankel had to be licking his chops for 2005, even with the likes of Intercontinental and Megahertz already in his stable.

While Intercontinental and Megahertz remained among the elite of the division, Barancella's star faded. She returned in the Grade 2 Santa Ana at Santa Anita last March 20 and ran on decently to be a close-up fifth behind Megahertz. Frankel dropped her into an allowance spot 11 days later and she rallied for a workmanlike win that suggested she would be a force to deal with in the near future.

It didn't work out quite that well, however. She wasn't seen for another two months, and then resurfaced in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont. She ran well, rallying to be third, and again seemed set up for a breakout race.

And again, that did not materialize. She didn't race again for five months, finally returning in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on Oct. 23. She was midpack early, got shuffled back to last on the far turn, still only three lengths or so off the pace in what was basically a cavalry charge, and was trapped along the rail. Even so she blasted home when room finally materialized, finishing fourth, beaten less than a length.

Now comes 2006. Barancella has worked in steady fashion, and Frankel doesn't have Intercontinental or Megahertz or Alinghi to fall back on. Melhor Ainda isn't due back for some time either. So for now, she's Bobby's girl.

Even without Frankel's other big guns, and no Mea Domina in the San Gorgonio lineup, this race came up salty. Bond Deal just won nicely at Golden Gate and last fall on this course was a close-up fifth to Mea Domina in the Grade 2 Las Palmas.

Dream's won her first four U.S. outings after shipping in from Chile for trainer Ron McAnally. She didn't taste defeat until her stablemate Mea Domina beat her - by just two lengths - in the aforementioned Las Palmas.

Flip Flop did enough good work, including a second to Megahertz in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon, to merit a dive into the deepest end of the pool - the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Things didn't work out for her that day, but she's back to a course you know she likes and at a better level.

Silver Cup just ran here Dec. 29 when a decent fourth with trouble. She was a Group 2 winner in Italy and third in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs Nov. 21.

Ticker Tape was the cat's meow as a 3-year-old in 2004, had a rough 2005, but looked a bit like her old self when a good third in the Grade 3 My Charmer at Calder last month.

The most interesting entrant may be Star Parade. The veteran mare is winless in four tries on the turf but her one third shows she belongs. She stalked the pace and kept on well to be third to Mea Domina in the Las Palmas. After that she was a dazzling winner of the Grade 2 Bayakoa on the dirt at Hollywood, looking very much at the peak of her powers.

But if Barancella is finally ready to deliver on the promise she showed in 2004, Frankel likely won't have any reason for anxiety as the turf season out West swings into high gear.

San Miguel next step for Peace Chant

Sunday's San Miguel at six furlongs is an interesting mix. You have some 3-year-olds who get a shot at stakes brackets at their game - sprinting.

But the San Miguel usually also attracts another type of 3-year-old, one who may well be looking toward the first Saturday in May. The San Miguel provides the chance for a horse who is short on seasoning, with maybe only a maiden sprint win to his credit, to move on.

Peace Chant, a son of Breeders' Cup Mile winner War Chant out of BC Sprint winner Safely Kept, fits into that category and rates a long look Sunday. Trained by Richard Mandella, Peace Chant was a dazzling winner in his debut at Hollywood last month. Despite blowing the start from his rail draw, he surged into contention, then powered home to win going away. He must deal with winners for the first time Sunday, including his vaunted stablemate One Union, who showed promise last summer at Del Mar. One Union dueled and faltered to finish fourth behind Stevie Wonderboy in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, but afterward had minor surgery to remove a bone spur that contributed to his weakening effort. One Union has trained super for his comeback and is the horse to beat.

Mandella said rider Victor Espinoza, the only jock both horses have known, would have his choice of which to ride Sunday. He reportedly has opted for Peace Chant. We're coming along for the ride.