11/09/2005 12:00AM

Cigno d'Oro tackles tougher after win against statebreds

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Cigno d'Oro turned in one of her best efforts in winning the Queen Lib Handicap last week at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

A 6-year-old mare, Cigno d'Oro was bumped at the break but quickly recovered in a strong front-running victory over New Jersey-bred fillies and mares. She earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure, only 3 points below her lifetime best.

The reward is an opportunity to do it again, only this time against open company. "She ran so good the last time, we've got to run her back again," said trainer Bob Durso.

will face six rivals Friday night in the $60,000 Montclair State University Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

Her Queen Lib effort at 13-1 was surprising on two levels. Cigno d'Oro had not run in six weeks and she had not shown that kind of speed in recent races.

"It was just her," Durso said. "She was very sharp. She hadn't run for a while. We had entered her two or three times in other races and they didn't go. When the man said 'go,' she went on her way. She ran one heck of a race."

Open stakes company will pose a bigger challenge.

"I know it's going to be tough," Durso said. "That race she ran the last time was as good as you could find for New Jersey-breds. It's the end of the year, and it was a question of running here or in Delaware. She likes this track."

Cigno d'Oro has a record of 4-1-1 in 10 Big M races. All of her rivals will make their Meadowlands debut.

Cigno d'Oro is at the point where retirement becomes a consideration. The way she is running now, she will be back in Durso's barn next year.

He points out that this is one of her best campaigns, with 2 statebred stakes victories in 7 starts. This despite suffering leg cuts in winning the Spruce Fir Handicap at Monmouth in June, which, Durso said, "set us back six or seven weeks."

"She probably would have run a lot more and a lot better," he said. "She went backwards a little bit after that."

Like Cigno d'Oro, - who landed the rail - will also be looking for the lead. A New York-bred 4-year-old filly, she was a powerful front-running allowance winner last time out at Belmont Park, earning a career- and field-best 98 Beyer for trainer Tom Bush.

Also in the field are Welcome Home, , Evasive, Smartlee Away, and Fortress Hill.