10/12/2005 11:00PM

Several reasons to like French Filly in QE II

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Luas Line will try to pull off the tough Garden City BC-Queen Elizabeth II double.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Coming off a Grade 1 victory in the Garden City Breeders' Cup at Belmont - a race in which she earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure - Luas Line would seem a near-invincible favorite in Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

But this is the Queen Elizabeth II, or the QEII as it is often called, perhaps the best grass race for 3-year-old fillies in America. Nothing in this race comes easily.

Irrespective of how impressively one wins the Garden City, it does not always translate to success in the QEII. Consider the past 10 winners of the Garden City Breeders' Cup (called the Rare Perfume prior to 1998): Of those 10, eight raced back in the QEII.

Only two won - Perfect Sting in 1999 at odds of 8-5 and Perfect Arc in 1995 at 3-5. Even such classy Garden City winners as Wonder Again (2002), Voodoo Dancer (2001), and Auntie Mame (1997) were beaten in this race.

Interestingly, five of those eight finished fourth or worse in the QEII , an indication that it is challenging for these young fillies to produce a pair of peak performances in races as demanding as the Garden City and QEII. They seemingly bounced.

Luas Line could do the same following a race that was the best of her career. That could lead to a prime opportunity for Gorella.

A recent import from France by her new owner, Martin Schwartz, Gorella is classy filly at the top of her game. A Group 2 winner at Chantilly, she comes off a pair of on-the-board finishes in Group 1 company, running behind such standout runners as Divine Proportions, a winner of 9 of 10 starts, and the talented world traveler Starcraft.

It was her last race in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on Sept. 4 that particularly wowed observers. Facing Starcraft - a champion, older male who had won three Group 1 races in Australia - she finished full of run to be second, 2 1/2 lengths behind her more seasoned rival.

The race, which appeared legitimate at the time with four of the nine competitors being Group 1 winners, looks even better a month later. Starcraft came back to take the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Newmarket, one of the best mile races in Europe, upsetting favored Dubawi.

The Prix du Moulin de Longchamp was also fast. Starcraft's winning time is second only to Sendawar's (1999) among the last 10 runnings of the Moulin.

Since arriving in the States, Gorella has trained well for Patrick Biancone, recording three bullet works, one on turf at Saratoga and two others over the Polytrack surface at Turfway.

There is precedent for her running well. Although only one QEII winner over the last 10 years has been won by a European invader (Ryafan in 1997), four others have recorded runner-up finishes - from a sample of only 12 runners. Two more were third.

The 12 posted an average Beyer of 97, compared with 93 for the eight winners of the Garden City that raced back in the QEII.

Biancone and Schwartz also have a successful history with European imports. Angara blossomed with U.S. racing to win the Grade 1 Beverly D. this summer, and just last month, Asi Siempre ran second in the Garden City Breeders' Cup in her first start in America, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Luas Line.

Angara raced in an allowance opening day at Keeneland to prep for the Oct. 23 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine - leaving Gorella as the stable's representative for QEII.

Party cloudy skies are forecasted leading up to Saturday, meaning the race will likely be contested on a firm course. Those are conditions under which Gorella and Luas Line are reportedly most effective.

With Luas Line expected to be the favorite, Gorella may offer value as the second or third choice in a talent-laden field. She is the bet in the Queen Elizabeth II.