10/04/2002 11:00PM

Imperial Gesture ultra sharp


ELMONT, N.Y. - Imperial Gesture followed her good-looking win in the Grade 1 Gazelle last month with another comfortable victory in Saturday's Grade 1 at Belmont Park.

Imperial Gesture, the second choice, won the $750,000 Beldame by 2 3/4 lengths over Mandy's Gold. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to the 6-5 favorite, Summer Colony, in third.

Transcendental, Allamerican Bertie, Minister's Baby, and Unrestrained completed the order of finish.

Imperial Gesture, with jockey Jerry Bailey aboard, set the pace, with Allamerican Bertie in close attendance, down the backstretch. Imperial Gesture let it out a notch heading into the far turn and opened up a clear lead, but Allamerican Bertie came right back at her late on the turn.

"That was the weirdest thing I ever experienced," Bailey said. "She almost propped to take a breath. The only reason was she had to take a breath, and it was a big breath. She knew what she was doing."

Imperial Gesture drew off again and had a 5 1/2-length lead at the eighth pole.

Imperial Gesture, owned by Godolphin Racing, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.63 over a fast track. It is the slowest running of the Beldame since the race was run at its current distance in 1990. Imperial Gesture's early fractions were 23.67 seconds, 46.03, 1:10.52, and 1:37.04. Imperial Gesture ($5.60) is the eighth 3-year-old filly to win the Beldame since 1990.

Trained by Saaed bin Suroor, Imperial Gesture was saddled by Godolphin assistant trainer Tom Albertrani.

Imperial Gesture will now meet Azeri, the top older filly in the country, in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

Imperial Gesture, said Albertrani, "has been peaking at the right time. Hopefully, we can keep her this way for the next three weeks and this race didn't take too much out of her."

Albertrani said Imperial Gesture would be shipped to Arlington Park a few days before the Distaff.

Summer Colony, the leading older filly on the East Coast, has never won a race around one turn. Her trainer, Mark Hennig, said he wasn't surprised when Imperial Gesture and Allamerican Bertie turned the race into a sprint. Summer Colony, who was ridden by John Velazquez, raced in fourth down the backstretch, several lengths off the leaders.

"I was afraid of that happening," Hennig said. "I'd rather get our best race in the Breeders' Cup."

Velazquez said, "She just didn't punch. I think she is just a bit more comfortable going around two turns; she likes it better."