09/10/2004 12:00AM

Necklace a perfect fit

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
French 1000 Guineas winner Torrestrella adds intrigue to Sunday's Garden City cast.

ELMONT, N.Y. - With a strong effort against older horses in the Grade 1 Beverly D., Necklace appears to have a leg up on her competition in Sunday's Garden City Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park.

Necklace, who returned to Ireland after finishing third in the Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 14, could be the favorite among nine fillies entered in the Grade 1, $300,000 Garden City.

Jerry Porcelli, Belmont's track superintendent, expects the turf to be good to firm on Sunday, following 4 1/2 inches of rain last week. Some give in the ground figures to aid the European runners.

, trained by Aidan O'Brien, is among three European-based runners in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. Barancella and Noahs Ark, who would need to step up to beat Necklace, arrived in New York from France and Ireland, respectively, last week.

In the Garden City, Necklace will seek her first win of the year. Last year in Ireland, she won two stakes, including the Group 1 Moyglare Stud. In the Beverly D., Necklace closed in the final yards and was beaten a half-length by Crimson Palace and Riskaverse.

O'Brien shipped the filly back to his Ballydoyle training center in Ireland after the Beverly D. On Friday from Ballydoyle, O'Brien said he wasn't worried about Necklace making another trek across the Atlantic on the heels of her round trip last month.

"She likes traveling and came back well from the race at Arlington," O'Brien said. "I thought she ran well in the Beverly D. It was her first time against older horses and a learning thing for her. She's coming into herself now. She has matured a good bit."

Jamie Spencer, aboard in the Beverly D., rides Necklace from post 1.

An intriguing runner is , the winner of the French 1000 Guineas, who makes her American debut for trainer Christophe Clement. Torrestrella was privately purchased by Michael Rankowitz and Peter Karches in the spring and brought to this country in July.

Clement also will run , who won the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga and is 2 for 2 since arriving in the United States from England in June. Clement won the Garden City with Voodoo Dancer three years ago for Green Hills Farm, the owners of Spotlight.

Clement, who has a deft touch with horses coming off layoffs, was very high on Spotlight when she made her American debut here in July, and he exhibits that same enthusiasm for Torrestrella's first race in this country.

In her last start, Torrestrella finished 11th in the Group 1 French Oaks on June 13. A month earlier, she won the French 1000 Guineas, a mile race at Longchamp, by 1 1/2 lengths over Grey Lilas, who won the Group 1 Prix du Moulin against males last Sunday at Longchamp.

Torrestrella "is a very nice filly," Clement said. "A mile and five-sixteenths in the French Oaks was a long way for her, and she was a little bit rank. She didn't finish."

Corey Nakatani, who won the Garden City aboard Voodoo Dancer, rides Torrestrella from post 5.

The Clement horses will race as separate betting interests.

likes the Belmont course, having won the Grade 3 Sands Point at the Garden City distance in June. In her last start, Mambo Slew was no match for Spotlight, who beat her by 3 1/2 lengths. Mambo Slew is coupled in the wagering with maiden Saratoga Sugar, who is in foal to Forestry.

, who was cross-entered in Sunday's Boiling Springs at Monmouth Park, won back-to-back stakes earlier this year. She lost as the favorite when she finished second by a neck to Mambo Slew in the Sands Point. Lucifer's Stone was entered to run in the Lake Placid but was scratched the day of the race by her trainer, Linda Rice, because of an unsatisfactory blood-test result.

In Venturi's first start in nearly a year, she ran well to finish second as the favorite in the Grade 3 Lake George.

Noahs Ark, trained by Dermot Weld, won her last start in a handicap against males while packing 132 pounds.

Barancella, a winner of one race in four starts for trainer Freddie Head, appears to be overmatched.

The field

Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap
Purse: $300,000; 1 1/8 miles (turf); Grade 1

1NecklaceJ. Spencer1229-2
2SpotlightC. Velasquez1207-2
3Lucifer's StoneJ. Santos1188-1
4BarancellaJ. Chavez11612-1
5TorrestrellaC. Nakatani1225-2
6VenturiJ. Velazquez11810-1
7Mambo SlewE. Prado118 5-1
8Noahs ArkJ. Castellano1166-1
9Saratoga SugarT. Farina1165-1

* Coupled: Mambo Slew and Saratoga Sugar
* Odds by Brian Pochman