03/14/2007 11:00PM

Leah's Secret just needs a good start


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Leah's Secret broke five lengths behind her field before ultimately being beaten 3 3/4 lengths when finishing fifth in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park in her 2007 debut. Anyone who watches a replay of the Grade 2 stakes or simply does the math will come to the same conclusion: Leah's Secret should have won the race.

A clean start will be imperative if Leah's Secret is to get back on the winning track when she returns against arguably an even stronger field in Saturday's $200,000 Shirley Jones Breeders' Cup Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The Grade 2, seven-furlong sprint also lured Any Limit, winner of both the Grade 3 First Lady and Hurricane Bertie handicaps earlier in the meet, along with the Grade 1 stakes-placed Stormy Kiss.

Leah's Secret closed out her 3-year-old campaign with a pair of victories, including a game three-quarter-length triumph in Laurel's one-mile Anne Arundel Stakes. But she was unprepared for the start and could not overcome the deep hole she dug for herself after breaking so far behind her field in last month's Barbara Fritchie.

"I've stood her quite a bit in the gate in the morning since that race and this crew might know her a little better than the crew in Maryland, although what happened there certainly wasn't their fault," said Helen Pitts, who trains Leah's Secret.

Leah's Secret should also benefit from having drawn the extreme outside post in the nine-horse field as well as what figures to be an honest pace.

Any Limit will attempt to complete a sweep of Gulfstream's three sprint stakes for fillies and mares this winter. She overcame a slow start of her own to win the First Lady by 2 1/2 lengths, then held gamely to repulse My Lucky Free in the Hurricane Bertie.

Stormy Kiss had a rough trip in the Hurricane Bertie that began with a slow start and continued when she rushed up and had to steady in traffic entering the turn.

She won the Grade 2 Honorable Miss and finished third in the Grade 1 Ballerina in 2006.

My Lucky Free gave Any Limit all she could handle before succumbing grudgingly in the Hurricane Bertie and figures to benefit from the outing, her first start in nearly four months.