Updated on 09/15/2011 12:48PM

Penny's Gold has to get soft

Michael J. Marten
Gaviola will be Penny's Gold's top rival

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Of all the talented turf fillies and mares in trainer Christophe Clement's barn, Penny's Gold could be the best.

Since coming to this country from France, Penny's Gold, a daughter of Kingmambo, has gone 3 for 3, including a victory in the Grade 3 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in April. Sunday, she makes her first start in four months when she runs in the Grade 3, $200,000 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap on the turf at Saratoga. The Ballston Spa is run at 1 1/16 miles, a distance at which Penny's Gold is 2 for 2.

"Over a mile on turf she would be competitive wherever we took her on firmer turf," Clement said.

There's the rub. Heavy rain hit the area Thursday night and Friday morning, forcing all three of Friday's scheduled turf races to a sloppy main track. Although the forecast for the weekend called for dry weather, Clement is worried because he's never run Penny's Gold on soft turf. She has won on such ground in Europe.

As insurance, Clement has also entered Step With Style in the Ballston Spa.

Penny's Gold and Step With Style offer quite a contrast in strategy for Clement. Penny's Gold hasn't run in four months - a sickness caused her to miss the Just a Game in June - but Clement is terrific off the layoff. Step With Style ran just a week ago, finishing second to Shopping for Love in the Spicy Living Stakes at Rockingham.

As long as the Ballston Spa remains on turf, Penny's Gold figures to be the public choice under Jerry Bailey. Her sternest competition should come from Gaviola, the 119-pound highweight under Jorge Chavez.

Gaviola was one of the top 3-year-old turf fillies in the country last year, winning six of eight starts including the Grade 2 Lake Placid Handicap here. Although the course was labeled firm that day, trainer Bill Turner disagreed and would not be concerned if the turf came up soft Sunday.

"That's what we were running on all year last year," Turner said. "I don't think we hit a hard, fast racetrack in New York all last year."

Gaviola is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 New York Handicap at Belmont on July 14. She cuts back from 10 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, a distance at which she is 4 for 6.

Gaviola likes to run on or near the lead and there are several front-runners in the Ballston Spa field. Amourette, who scratched out of Friday's Glens Falls, and Babae, a recent allowance winner, should be close to the pace early.