06/06/2007 11:00PM

Valbenny goes beyond mile in Honeymoon

Email

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Valbenny is the top-rated 3-year-old turf filly in California. She has earned that distinction by winning three stakes since arriving from England last fall.

Holding that position over the next month will pit Valbenny against some of the world's best in the division.

Valbenny will try for her fourth stakes win as the 123-pound topweight in Saturday's $175,000 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park. The Grade 2 Honeymoon is a prep to the $750,000 American Oaks on July 7, and a test of Valbenny's ability beyond a mile.

The Honeymoon is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Valbenny will face several rivals in excellent form.

The distance "is a big question," trainer Paddy Gallagher said. Valbenny's ability is not.

"It would be nice to think about [the American Oaks] but we to need get through the Honeymoon," Gallagher said.

Valbenny won the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes over a mile on turf here May 12, rallying from seventh to win comfortably under Alex Solis.

"It was probably one of her better races," Gallagher said.

Valbenny has won 4 of 7 starts. The only blemish on her U.S. record is a sixth behind Super Freaky in the Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in April, her first start of 2007.

"She got bumped around at the head of the stretch," Gallagher said of the loss. "I don't know if that took some of the air out of her or not. Other than getting knocked sideways, I couldn't find an excuse."

In the Honeymoon, Valbenny will be in pursuit of pacesetter Passified, winner of the China Doll Stakes in March and the third-place finisher in the Senorita. Trainer Jim Cassidy is hopeful that Passified will not be tested early.

"It's a different pace at a mile and an eighth than it is at a mile," Cassidy said. "She's been a mile and that's her best distance."

Super Freaky may have first run on Valbenny, but the distance is a question for her, too.

"She trains like she'll run all day," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "The American Oaks is something on the schedule if we can run well."

The distance should not be a concern for Ainamaa, who beat maidens over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita in April.

"I know she'll get a mile and an eighth and she'll probably get further," trainer Ben Cecil said. "What's nice about her, she can be pretty much where she needs to be. Obviously, it's much tougher than anything she's been in so far."