01/01/2003 1:00AM

Pretty Gale eyes upset on the lead


NEW ORLEANS - What are Pretty Gale's six opponents Friday in the Truly Bound Handicap to do? Run with her early and they compromise their finish. Let her loose on a clear lead and they may never see more than her back end.

Pretty Gale's pace edge makes her a tempting alternative to Lakenheath, who probably will be a strong favorite to win the 23rd edition of the $75,000 Truly Bound, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race for fillies and mares. Lakenheath crunched Pretty Gale when they squared off last spring in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails at Sportsman's Park, but Pretty Gale lost all chance when she went to her nose leaving the gate.

Both horses were stabled at Arlington last summer, but while Lakenheath reached peak form there, winning the Grade 3 Arlington Matron, Pretty Gale struggled. "My filly didn't get over the track at Arlington at all," said Bobby Springer, who trains Pretty Gale for owner Russell Reineman. "The surface just got away from her."

Fair Grounds is a different story. Pretty Gale has won two of four starts here and has never finished worse than third. Last year she ran second in an off-the-turf edition of the $144,000 Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"She's doing really good right now," said Springer, who wondered aloud if anyone could stay with his mare early in the Truly Bound. The answer is probably not. Pretty Gale can comfortably run a half-mile in 47 seconds and change and have something left for the stretch run of a race at this distance. For any of her rivals to do that, it will take a deviation from their typical strategy.

But Lakenheath should be able to stay close. Winner of the Grade 3 Silverbulletday here two seasons ago, Lakenheath jumped quickly into her races when she was at her peak this summer, though she seems best in a stalker's role. Lakenheath has logged a series of fast Fair Grounds works for trainer Gene Cilio as she attempts to bounce back from her most recent start, a last-place finish Oct. 6 in the Grade 1 Spinster.

On paper, Blue Guru, Bala, and Took Out all are outsiders in the Truly Bound. Warren's Whistle makes her second start on this circuit after earning more than $600,000 in the California phase of her career. She did little running in a sprint allowance Dec. 19, and has historically been a better horse around one turn. That leaves Swinging Gate, a one-turn mile specialist who might be sitting on a big race for trainer Tom Amoss.

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