10/10/2006 11:00PM

Gorella sharp for First Lady


Patrick Biancone got a lot of work done toward what he hopes will be a huge Saturday at Keeneland when he sent out several of his top horses, most notably Gorella, for serious workouts Wednesday morning over a Polytrack surface dampened by rain.

Gorella's half-mile breeze was her final workout before she runs on the turf as the favorite in the Grade 2 First Lady, an exceptionally deep race that will share the Saturday spotlight at Keeneland with the Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

With regular rider Julien Leparoux aboard, Gorella was timed in 47.20 seconds, a move that Biancone said should have her ready for the one-mile First Lady. Ever since Gorella won the Aug. 12 Beverly D. in breathtaking fashion, Biancone has been besieged with inquiries about whether Gorella will run in the Breeders' Cup Mile or the BC Filly and Mare Turf. He reiterated Wednesday that he will not make a decision until after the First Lady.

"Let's get through Saturday and make sure she comes out okay," he said.

Gorella drew post 4 in a field that also includes such divisional standouts as My Typhoon (post 1), winner of the Grade 2 Ballston Spa in her last start; Karen's Caper (post 3), winner of the Grade 3 Noble Damsel last out; Mea Domina (post 7), a West Coast invader who captured the Grade 2 Palomar at Del Mar last out; and Sweet Talker (post 9), winner of the QE II here last fall.

In all, 11 fillies and mares are entered, although only 10 can start, with Bag of Quarters being the lone also-eligible.

Both the First Lady and the QE II will be televised live on a two-hour ESPN broadcast that begins at 4 p.m. Eastern. Both races are part of the National Pick 4 wager, which also includes the Champagne and Frizette from Belmont Park.

Biancone vs. Pletcher in QE II

Not to be outdone by the First Lady, the 23rd running of the QE II came up with a great cast of 3-year-old fillies, led by the Biancone-trained Mauralakana and the Todd Pletcher-trained Magnificent Song.

Mauralakana, a French-bred import, made a splashy North American debut when she finished third and earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure with a big late rally against older mares in the Sept. 23 Noble Damsel. Magnificent Song has won four of her last five starts, including a two-length triumph in the Grade 1 Garden City last time out.

Leparoux will ride Mauralakana, and Garrett Gomez will ride Magnificent Song.

Other notables in the QE II, a 1 1/8-mile turf race, include the Garden City runner-up Take the Ribbon; Germance, a Group 1 winner who has won 5 of 6 starts, all in France; Quiet Royal, another dangerous French invader; and Vacare, unbeaten in three starts, all on the Arlington Park turf.

Two fillies whose connections declined invitations at the 11th hour were Lady of Venice and Aunt Henny, a development that allowed Trick's Pic, yet another Biancone trainee, into the field.

Biancone said he was "unhappy" with the way Lady of Venice breezed a half-mile Wednesday in 48.40 and that he does not have a particular alternate race in mind for her.

Solid TCA led by Behaving Badly

The first of three graded stakes to be run here Saturday is the Grade 3 $300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, which drew an excellent field with a divisional standout: Behaving Badly, who arguably is the top filly-mare sprinter in the country and figures as an odds-on choice in a field of nine.

Behaving Badly, based in Santa Anita with Bob Baffert, arrived at Keeneland on Wednesday, a day later than originally scheduled, because of a flight delay caused by a mechanical problem.

Behaving Badly will be ridden by Victor Espinoza and break from post 6 in the six-furlong TCA.

Feeling good about Court Folly

Trainer Ian Wilkes is glad that horses who come from behind are faring better at Keeneland than they did before the old dirt track was replaced with the Polytrack surface. Wilkes will saddle stretch-running Court Folly in the eighth running of the Perryville Stakes on Friday.

"It's good to know we have a better chance with the track playing like it has," said Wilkes.

What also is good to know about Court Folly is that the two 3-year-olds who finished ahead of him in his last race, the Grade 1 King's Bishop on the Aug. 26 Travers undercard at Saratoga, proceeded to distinguish themselves last Saturday. The King's Bishop winner, Henny Hughes, was phenomenal in winning the Vosburgh, and the King's Bishop runner-up, Star Dabbler, dead-heated for win in the Indiana Derby.

"There's some real good form around that last race," said Wilkes. "I can't hold my horse down right now. He's right on his game."

Another Biancone trainee, Ball Four, had his first workout since he upset the Sept. 30 Kentucky Cup Classic when he went a half-mile Wednesday in 47.40, handily, over the Keeneland Polytrack. Asked whether he intends to run Ball Four next in the BC Classic, Biancone said: "Maybe no, maybe yes."

Bushfire, one of the top 3-year-old fillies of this year, breezed an easy half-mile Wednesday in 49.80 seconds over the Keeneland Polytrack. Bushfire, who runs next in the BC Distaff, "is really doing great," said trainer Eddie Kenneally.

* Polytrack underwent an unscheduled test during and after the sixth race Wednesday when a steady drizzle turned into a torrential downpour for several minutes, leaving a sizable pool of water on the outer section of the track about 150 yards before the finish line. The pool remained noticeable for about 40 minutes, but was not visible by the time the featured eighth race was run an hour later.

Irene's Mon rallied under Leparoux to win the feature, a third-level allowance, returning $5 to win as the favorite in a field of seven.