03/06/2003 1:00AM

Burning Roma has class to contend


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park's Saturday features have been quality treats all season. We have another interesting and competitive exercise in prospect when Native Heir, winner of the Deputy Minister Handicap here last month, clashes with Burning Roma, winner of the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup, in the $200,000 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup at seven furlongs.

Native Heir may be a slight favorite following a convincing score in the Deputy Minister, which he won by more than four lengths, completing the 6 1/2 furlongs in a zippy 1:15.17, which earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 109.

Burning Roma ran well to finish third in Aqueduct's Grade 1 Carter Handicap last year and took the measure of Volponi in the Meadowlands Cup before Volponi went to Chicago to upset the Breeders' Cup Classic. He has run against better horses, and has an impressive list of credentials topped by earnings of $1,265,537.

Harold Queen, a knowledgeable horseman, bought Burning Roma for $40,000 at the 2000 Fasig-Tipton Calder sale of 2-year-olds in training and has managed him skillfully. The Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup which served Burning Roma as a prep for the Richter Scale, for example, was on the grass. It was a debut on turf for Burning Roma, and having passed the test successfully, he gives his people options for future engagements.

Burning Roma, a 5-year-old horse by sprint champion Rubiano, uses his natural speed to win races. He was in front most of the way in his Meadowlands Cup victory and led throughout much of the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup. In November, he attempted to make the running in the Stuyvesant at Aqueduct, too, but got caught up in a speed duel and squandered his energies.

"His post position was a major factor," trainer Heather Giglio said of the Stuyvesant. "We used him early in a bid for position from the outside in a 10-horse field and he had nothing left for the drive. You have to admire him, though. He tries hard all the time."

Giglio grew up in racing as the daughter of trainer Jay Marino of Cleveland. She took out a trainer's license 10 years ago, assisted her father, and then started a stable of her own. She saddled Burning Roma to win the Tampa Bay Derby as a 3-year-old, and ran him at Gulfstream last winter in the same feature he'll bid for Saturday. He came from off the pace on that occasion, finishing third. He's a more mature individual these days and several victories have given him renewed confidence.

He looks like the one to beat in the Richter Scale.

Lady's Secret, a brilliant champ

Lady's Secret was a stakes winner at 2 but didn't really come to hand for trainer Wayne Lukas until the summer of her 3-year-old season when she ran off a remarkable series of wins including the Test, Ballerina, Maskette, Ruffian, and Beldame.

She achieved another level of greatness at 4 when she came to Saratoga and beat male horses in the Whitney Handicap while giving weight to most of her opponents. During a brilliant career she won 25 races and over $3 million in purses. She was a Horse of the Year and is a member of the Hall of Fame. She died a few days ago in California after foaling a colt by General Meeting. Lady's Secret was special.