03/05/2008 12:00AM

High hopes for Gypsy Baby


ARCADIA, Calif. - Forget the introductions. Friday's seventh race at Santa Anita, an optional claimer over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course, is all about business for Gypsy Baby, who is making her U.S. debut.

An Irish-bred 3-year-old filly, Gypsy Baby had 1 victory in 6 starts in England last year, and was second in two races in August - the $70,800 Shergar Cup Juvenile at Ascot and the $759,000 St. Leger Yearling Stakes, a sales stakes, at York. Both of those races were sprints, which has left new trainer Bob Hess Jr. confident that Gypsy Baby can win Friday.

"We're not giving her a race," he said. "We expect big things down the road. I think she'll break well, drop back, and hopefully get up in time."

Purchased for approximately $300,000 last fall, Gypsy Baby has not started since the York race in August. The race drew 20 runners and Gypsy Baby was beaten a length, closing well late.

Hess said that Gypsy Baby has been schooled at the gate and has worked well, though maybe a bit slower than he would prefer.

"In a perfect world, I would like to have seen a quicker work," Hess said. "She's fit. She's well-prepared and is good out of the gate. We're hoping she should go farther. She should be able to handle 6 1/2 or seven" furlongs.

Gypsy Baby is one of three European imports making their first U.S. starts in the field of seven. Eileen's Violet, trained by Craig Dollase, makes her first start since finishing second in an allowance race in England last September. Her lone victory came over five furlongs on turf last May.

Sovine won 2 of 8 starts in England and Ireland. Trained by Herbert Bacorn, Sovine is can be claimed for $80,000. She has yet to win on turf, having won on all-weather races at Dundalk in Ireland and at Wolverhampton in England in her last two starts.

Blue Rhapsody, a troubled fifth in her U.S. debut on Feb. 11, began her career in England. Now trained by Paddy Gallagher, she broke slowly last month and was beaten four lengths in an optional claimer over a mile on turf.

Red-hot trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap last Saturday with Heatseeker, starts Starry Pursuit. A filly by Van Nistelrooy, Starry Pursuit won her debut in a maiden race over 4 1/2 furlongs at Arlington Park last June for trainer Ronny Werner and has not started since.