Updated on 09/15/2011 12:29PM

Closer well-suited on Hollywood turf


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A slow starter in a sprint is typically at a disadvantage. That is why trainer Ron McAnally is reluctant to endorse Gabriellina Giof when she makes her U.S. debut Friday at Hollywood Park in the the $70,000 Manhattan Beach Stakes.

"I don't know if she can get up at five and a half [furlongs]," McAnally said, predicting "she'll probably walk out of the gate and come running at the end."

Funny thing is, Gabriellina Giof's supposed flaw may ultimately work in her favor when she faces 10 others in the Manhattan Beach, a turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies. The likelihood of a hot pace, combined with a course profile benefiting closers, gives Gabriellina Giof a legitimate chance to win regardless of how she starts.

It won't be easy. The race-six feature came up deep and attracted two California-breds with adequate stakes credentials. They are front-runner Channing Way, who has won six of seven, including the $150,000 Melair Stakes; and Warren's Whistle, a 16-start veteran with four wins and earnings of $280,363. Along with stakes winners Princess Belle and Joke, and fast maiden winner Brisquette, the Manhattan Beach offers a variety of choices.

First, handicappers must recognize the messy pace scenario compromising every front-runner. Channing Way has been no farther behind than a half-length on fast footing; Brisquette won pressing a 44-second half; Joke and Pretty 'n Smart are front-runners; and Princess Belle presses.

The scenario begs for a meltdown, and complements the season-long course profile. Of 30 turf sprints through Sunday, only three were won by the pacesetter. Meanwhile, 15 winners rallied from three or more lengths behind at the first pace call, while 10 won from five or more lengths behind.

The bottom line? Front-runners are in deep water, and closers consistently enjoy the best of it.

Should the trend prevail, Gabriellina Giof can win her first since November. She won three of six in Italy, and was purchased several months ago by McAnally for new owner Arnold Zetcher. The sale took place during the hoof-and-mouth crisis in Europe, however, and import-export restrictions prevented McAnally from getting the filly to the U.S.

If Gabriella Giof does not get up, Channing Way might be rewarded again for her resolve. She won her last two by a nose, has won at three tracks, and a Tomlinson turf rating of 405 suggests grass will be fine.