01/14/2010 1:00AM

Ribaudo looking for stable star


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Can there be life after Bribon for trainer Robert Ribaudo Jr.?

Ribaudo is searching for a replacement for his multiple Grade 1 winner, who was sold privately late last year. Finding one won't be easy, although he does have a nice prospect in the lightly raced filly Qualia, who along with Film Charm tops a field of seven fillies and mares in Thursday's $48,000 main event going six furlongs at Gulfstream Park.

Qualia, a 4-year-old daughter of Saarland, has started just twice, winning her maiden by more than four lengths on Oct. 18 at Belmont before dropping a neck decision to Sheikh's Serenade five weeks later at Aqueduct.

"She had a lot of little problems, a splint and a curb in behind, which delayed her getting to the races," said Ribaudo who trains Qualia for Bribon's former owner, Marc Keller. "She is also a big filly, bigger than you'd like to see for a 2-year-old. It's a shame it took so long getting her here, because you feel like you missed some opportunities. But her sheet numbers for her first two starts are very good, and she doesn't have far to go to catch up with the ones who ran in the stakes here last weekend."

Ribaudo said he would have preferred Qualia's local bow to have been at seven furlongs because he's still uncertain how far she'll go or what her optimum distance may be.

"My options in the first book were either six furlongs or a mile, and seeing she blew out a little faster than I'd have liked after we got down here (a half-mile in 46.20 seconds on Dec. 22), I felt she might be a little too cranked up," he said. "It's also been nearly nearly two months since she's run, so I decided to sprint her one more time. It's difficult to tell what her best distance will be, but she definitely has a lot of quality and she only needs to improve a little bit to get to the next level."

Ribaudo is hoping to even the score with his colleague Bill Mott, who sends out Film Charm in Thursday's feature. Mott trains Sheikh's Serenade, who handed Qualia her only previous defeat.

Film Charm needed four starts to finally win her maiden, but was impressive in doing so, drawing off to a 6 3/4-length victory last summer at Saratoga. She subsequently finished third as the favorite in her final two tries at 3.

Royal Ballade, idle since the 2008 Frizette, and the speedy French Dip are among the other top contenders.