04/26/2002 12:00AM

Proper Gamble handles every challenge


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Proper Gamble continued on her milestone-a-start pace for 2002 with a hard-fought win in Friday's $250,000 Stonerside Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland.

In February, she won her first stakes in the Dearly Precious at Aqueduct, and followed a month later with her first graded stakes win in the Cicada.

The Beaumont Stakes for 3-year-old fillies was Proper Gamble's first win in a Grade 2 and could have easily resulted in a loss. After dueling with 6-5 favorite Bold World for the first half-mile, through fractions of 22.12 and 44.78 seconds, Proper Gamble held off a sustained rally from California invader Respectful to win by a nose. Ridden by Javier Castellano, Proper Gamble ran seven furlongs and 184 feet in 1:28.79.

"She's very genuine," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I knew when that filly came to her, she had a fight on her hands, but she loves a fight."

Vicki Vallencourt finished third, followed by Born to Dance, Aly Quatorze, Bold World, and Ghost Queen.

Proper Gamble ($5.20) has won 5 of 7 starts and $337,922 for James Stone. Pletcher mentioned the $250,000 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7 for Proper Gamble's next start. The one-mile Acorn would be Proper Gamble's first appearance in a Grade 1.

It's a Giggle takes Royal Chase

It's a Giggle, who missed nearly three years of racing due to tendon problems from 1998 to 2001, won his second major stakes since his return in the $169,958 Royal Chase.

Always close to the pace through 2 1/2 miles and 13 fences, It's a Giggle was roused by jockey Blythe Miller in the final run through the stretch and caught longtime front-runner Al Skywalker in the final 200 yards. It's a Giggle ($8.80) was timed in 4:39.42.

For much of the race, Miller kept It's a Giggle in third, stalking Al Skywalker who led by a few lengths over Quel Senor, the winner of the 2001 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase.

"The idea was to sit behind as long as we could," trainer Jonathan Sheppard said. "He seemed to relax well. I think when they came into the stretch for the first time, they were going a legitimate pace."

The first three horses pulled clear on the final turn, but Quel Senor fell at the 12th fence, leaving It's a Giggle and Al Skywalker to fight out the finish. It's a Giggle won by two lengths.

"Coming to the last, I was really working," Miller said. "I didn't think we'd get there."

Flat Top, who was making his first start since winning this race in 2000, finished a well-beaten third and was followed by Lord Zada. Shamrock Isle and Turkish Corner were pulled up on the final turn. Rand was scratched after picking up an injury in mid-week.

The Grade 1 Royal Chase marked Miller's fifth consecutive win on the 8-year-old It's a Giggle. Last summer, they paired to win the New York Turf Writers Handicap at Saratoga for owner William Pape.

It's a Giggle, who is still a maiden on the flat, has won 8 of 16 starts and $307,650. He will be pointed for the Saratoga meeting, Sheppard said.