Updated on 09/18/2011 12:44AM

Gorella a last-second thriller

Email
dam Coglianese / NYRA
Gorella gets up for a neck victory in the Just a Game on Belmont Day.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Stretch-runners have an inherent tendency for drama, and that has certainly been the case with Gorella during her brief tenure in America. An eye-catching rally fell narrowly short when she finished a close third behind Artie Schiller last fall in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park, and her run from a seemingly hopeless position resulted in an improbable victory in the Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard in June.

Now comes another grand stage - and another opportunity to keep racing fans on edge until the final jumps. Gorella, owned by Martin Schwartz, will be one of the favorites when the Grade 1, $750,000 is run Saturday at Arlington Park, and trainer Patrick Biancone is looking forward to another frantic and fruitful ending.

"You need to be lucky to win Grade 1 races like this," said Biancone, who indeed got lucky last year when he sent out Angara to victory in the Beverly D. "We will need luck again Saturday."

Luck aside, Gorella has already proven herself good. Now the top-ranked horse in the filly-mare turf division of Daily Racing Form's Watchmaker Watch, the French-bred 4-year-old has earned Beyer Speed Figures ranging from 95 to 108 in five races since being imported last fall. Those races validated a nine-race French campaign that included a Group 2 victory and two Group 1 placings.

Yet to reaffirm her current lofty status in the division, it might be a good idea for Gorella to run another huge race Saturday. Biancone, who has maintained a hectic travel schedule for months shuttling between his primary base, at Saratoga, and Turfway Park, the northern Kentucky track where many of his best horses have trained steadily over Polytrack, is particularly optimistic about how Gorella is coming into the Beverly D.

"She is doing very well," said Biancone, who was at Turfway on Tuesday morning to watch Gorella breeze a half-mile in a bullet 47 seconds. "Trust me."

Julien Leparoux, the Biancone prot?g? and apprentice standout who has ridden Gorella in her last three races, is equally impressed with the filly. He maintains a vivid memory of her whirlwind finish in the Grade 2 Just a Game, in which she trailed by five lengths at the eighth pole before nailing Pommes Frites in the final yards.

"I remember that she was 10 lengths behind!" Leparoux said between races Wednesday at Saratoga. "I was very confident when she kicked. She has a very, very good kick."

Still, both the Breeders' Cup Mile and Just a Game were run at a mile, and Biancone and Leparoux are keenly aware that if Gorella is to earn a championship this year, she will have to be similarly effective at longer distances. The Beverly D. is run at 1 3/16 miles, while the divisional end-of-season summit, the BC Filly and Mare Turf, will be run at 1 3/8 miles at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

"I am very happy where we are with her," said Biancone. "Obviously there is a question about going farther than 1 1/8 miles, but I think she can do it. Everything is going really well with her. I am very confident in this filly."

Said Leparoux: "I think she is one of the best. We will see on Saturday. I think she can win. She finished third in the Breeders' Cup. She can beat some good fillies."

Biancone planned to travel Thursday to Chicago, while Leparoux will ride at Saratoga through Friday before coming here. Meanwhile, Gorella will take a five-hour van ride from Turfway before arriving here early Saturday morning.

After the Beverly D., "I have no plan" for Gorella, said Biancone. "We just want to get through this one. This is a big one."

Indeed it is. Gorella is stretching out and trying to take her game to the next level. As usual, it should be entertaining to the end.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman