10/11/2001 11:00PM

A special Italian import


ARCADIA, Calif. - It is the perfect weekend for a 3-year-old turf filly to make her U.S. debut. The cream of the division shipped to Keeneland for Saturday's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II, leaving the $100,000 Harold C. Ramser Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita ripe for a well-regarded import.

Bettors scratching their heads over the QEII will find fewer complications in the Ramser, a one-mile turf race ideally suited for Italian import Love Roi. She meets nine foes, including stakes winners Cindy's Hero, Gabriellina Giof, and Alinga. Based on her 7-for-13 record overseas, striking appearance, and sharp works, Love Roi should win her U.S. debut one for trainer Wally Dollase.

"She's telling me she's ready to run," said Dollase, who added Love Roi's latest work Oct. 5 was "super, she was just cruising around the dogs with Corey [Nakatani]. It was pretty impressive."

Not only that, she looks the part. A long-bodied bay, Love Roi carries herself with confidence, and is so well-regarded by Dollase that he is considering putting together a group to purchase her after the Ramser.

Love Roi is owned by the Italian stable Scuderi Belforte, and was sent to Dollase early last month with the express purpose of racing and selling her. She arrived Sept. 3. Said Dollase: "I really like her. She's got natural speed; I love her mind, her eye, her head."

After winning 7 of 12 in Italy, including five wins against males, Love Roi shipped to France for a listed stakes at Deauville.

Racing over yielding ground, she bled and finished fifth. Dollase said Love Roi will race Sunday on Lasix. Assuming she reproduces her European form, and runs to her local works, the filly should be tough to beat.

The main threat to Love Roi is Gabriellina Giof, who also began her career in Italy. Trained by Ron McAnally, she won her U.S. debut June 29, finished second behind Reine De Romance in the Grade 2 San Clemente, then was a disappointing seventh as the 3-2 favorite in a minor Del Mar stakes. The reason for the effort was her unwillingness to relax.

In a half-mile grass work Friday under Chris McCarron, Gabriellina Giof relaxed beautifully. She glided around the dogs in 49.60 seconds with little restraint early, or encouragement late, from McCarron. The work suggests Gabriellina Giof, 4 for 9 lifetime, will conserve her energy more effectively Sunday.