04/04/2007 12:00AM

Ghurra makes 2007 stakes debut


ARCADIA, Calif. - A much-needed vacation over the winter appears to have revitalized Ghurra, a 5-year-old mare who makes her 2007 stakes debut in Friday's $75,000 American Beauty Handicap.

Last December, Ghurra finished 11th in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park. The loss left trainer Ben Cecil convinced that she needed a break.

"She was kind of over the top, and I think it did her some good," he said.

The proof came on March 8 when Ghurra won an allowance race over a mile on turf, her second victory in eight starts since joining Cecil's stable from Europe in the winter of 2005-06.

Cecil thinks Ghurra has the ability to win the one-mile American Beauty, which has drawn only five entrants.

"She's still got a bit of a winter coat, but I think she'll run well," he said. "It would nice to get her a stakes win. I was pretty pleased with her first race back. If she can improve a little bit, I think she'll have a good shot."

A winner of 3 of 18 starts and $130,581, Ghurra has been second or third in six races, including a third-place finish in the Marina Stakes at Golden Gate Fields last August. She is owned by David and Paula Mueller.

"Our goal is to win a stakes with her," Cecil said. "If she does that here, we'll try to pick up some graded stakes black type."

The other four starters - Big Promise, Mama Lula, Quemar, and Shermeen - each is searching for her first stakes win.

Shermeen was third in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park last May, and Quemar was third in the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap last October.

Cecil also has a promising 3-year-old European import in the first race, a $55,000 allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Worldly, a winner of 1 of 3 starts in England last year, makes his U.S. debut against four rivals.

"I think he can run," Cecil said.

The race is led by Silent Soul, who was briefly on the Triple Crown trail this year, finishing fourth in the San Rafael Stakes and fifth in the Sham on dirt.

Trained by David Hofmans, Silent Soul has better form on turf.