11/05/2006 1:00AM

Sabellina by a nose in Cardinal


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A tight photo revealed that Sabellina barely got the nod over Silca's Sister following a ferocious duel Sunday in the $171,750 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Sabellina, a New York-bred mare trained by Chuck Simon, was declared the winner by a nose over Silca's Sister after 1 1/8 miles were completed in 1:49.96 over a turf course rated good. Sabellina, ridden by Julien Leparoux, returned $20.60 as sixth choice in a field of 11 fillies and mares.

Silca's Sister, ridden by Robby Albarado, made or forced all the pace before being passed in midstretch by Sabellina. But in the frantic final yards, Silca's Sister battled back gamely, and it was very difficult to split the top two on the wire.

Royal Copenhagen finished third, another 2 1/4 lengths back, while Rich In Spirit, the 7-2 favorite, was another half-length back in fourth.

Sabellina, owned by Jay Lieberman, now has won seven of 32 overall starts and earned $515,190. She was making her first start since Simon overtook her training from Joe Aquilino.

The tough beat for Silca's Sister, a 3-year-old British-bred filly, denied Godolphin Racing and trainer Saeed bin Suroor a second straight Cardinal win. They won last year with Sundrop.