02/18/2011 2:35PM

Chilean star Belle Watling makes U.S. debut in The Very One


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. − Back home, she was nicknamed the Chilean Zenyatta. Trainer Patrick Biancone prefers to call her “the filly from Chile.” Her real name is Belle Watling, and on Sunday she will make her much anticipated U.S. debut going 1 3/8 miles in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3, $100,000 The Very One.

A 5-year-old daughter of Dushyantor, Belle Watling was purchased privately by the Belle Watling Syndicate LLC at the end of her campaign last season, when she went undefeated in six starts, stretching her winning streak to 10. Among her victories were two Group 1 stakes, at 1 1/4 miles and at 1 3/8 miles. At 3, she won 7 of 10 starts and won three Group 1’s.

Biancone had considered several options for Belle Watling’s U.S. debut before settling on The Very One.

“The reason for choosing this race is right in the Daily Racing Form,” he said. “It shows she’s undefeated at distances from a mile and one-quarter to a mile and one-half. Turf or dirt doesn’t seem to matter since she’s won Grade 1 races over both. This decision was based primarily on distance. In fact, that’s the major reason we purchased her. Most of the more important races later in the year are at a mile and one-quarter or beyond, and there aren’t that many horses in this country who can go that far.”

Belle Watling will be making her first start in four months, and Biancone pointed out that her hardest races have come after she has had a breakthe answer to the question of how fit she might be making her first start in four months is also in the Racing Form.

“If you look in the Form you’ll see that the hardest races for her came each time after she’d had a break,” said Biancone. “But we need to start some place,” he said. “Thus far she’s been a running machine, and we hope to continue that over here. My owner said she ran in an exhibition race with only four horses over there, and she drew 50,000 people. That’s why they called her the Zenyatta of Chile. I’d just like her to be known as Belle Watling of the U.S.”

Belle Watling will carry high weight of 123 pounds, including jockey Edgar Prado. She faces five rivals, led by Keertana, who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in her 2010 finale, and Changing Skies, winner of Calder’s Grade 3 La Prevoyante in her 2011 debut. Zapparition, Musical Rain, and Liberally complete the lineup.

A daughter of Johar, Keertana fell a half-length shy of Shared Account in the Filly and Mare Turf. The effort capped an outstanding season in which she won the Grade 3 Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational for trainer Tom Proctor. She opened this season by finishing in a dead heat for first with You Go West Girl in an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs four weeks ago.

Changing Skies finished full of run en route to a 3 3/4-length win in her last start, the 1 1/2-mile La Prevoyante. She won 2 of 6 starts in 2009, when she was worse than second just once, and finished nearly four lengths in front of Keertana in October, when beaten a head in the Flower Bowl.