04/06/2009 11:00PM

Gate work could help Elletelle


ARCADIA, Calif. - Elletelle's gate manners hindered her campaign in Europe last year.

A stakes winner in Ireland, she had a tendency to break slowly, sometimes rallying to win, other times playing no factor in the outcome.

The issue has been foremost on trainer Ben Cecil's mind as Elletelle nears her U.S. debut in a $57,000 allowance race at Santa Anita on Thursday.

"She was not good in the gate and we've done a lot of work," Cecil said. "She's been good" lately.

Owned by the Jesse Club syndicate, Elletelle has won 3 of 11 starts and $235,929. She won the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2007 and the Sweet Mimosa Stakes in Ireland last July. But in two other starts last summer, she broke slowly. In her most recent start last September, she threw a fit before the start of the Group 2 Diadem Stakes at Ascot and finished last.

Cecil chose Thursday's race at about 6 1/2 furlongs rather than Sunday's $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap.

"I thought this would be a better race," he said. "She'd be more comfortable."

Elletelle has worked quickly in recent weeks, and Cecil expects her to lead. The race drew only five entrants, and the other fillies and mares do not have much speed.

The field includes Lemon Chiffon, the winner of the Las Madrinas Handicap at Fairplex Park last September who has not started since finishing third in the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap here last October.

Three other fillies and mares who were stakes-placed in the last year are part of the field - Electro Nuclear, Mission Viejo Halo, and Porto Marmay. Electro Nuclear, third in the Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar last September, won a Group 2 at five furlongs on turf in Brazil in November 2007.

Lemon Chiffon will be retired and bred in 2010. The goal for owner Ron Beegle and trainer Sean McCarthy is to win a graded stakes with the 6-year-old, a winner of 3 of 8 starts.

McCarthy warned that Lemon Chiffon may need a start on Thursday, even though she has won on the hillside turf course in the past.

"This is a good starting spot for her, and that's what it is," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if she needed a run. I think after this race we should be in full gear."