07/05/2008 12:00AM

Valbenny looks better off her last


Valbenny beat only two horses when she checked in a troubled third last time out in the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap at Pimlico. But based on subsequent efforts by those two also-rans and the filly who finished 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Valbenny, watch out.

All three of her Gallorette rivals came back to win their next starts, which makes Valbenny a formidable threat against five other older females in Monday's $200,000 Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

The 1 1/16-mile turf race also drew a pair of graded/group stakes winners from prominent New York trainers Bill Mott and Christophe Clement - All Is Vanity and Sharp Susan - plus sharp Monmouth Park shipper Social Queen, winner of the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap three weeks ago.

None of those fillies, however, has faced the caliber of horses Valbenny competed against last season in Southern California, when she was trained by Paddy Gallagher. Valbenny's 2007 season included a win in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup and seconds in the Grade 1 American Oaks and Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

In her first start since coming to trainer Michael Matz, Valbenny was jostled at the start and had to check early in the 1 1/16-mile Gallorette. Her effort looks even better now that the Gallorette has become a key race.

The runner-up, Lady Digby, came back to win the Grade 3 All Along at Colonial Downs. The fourth-place finisher, Stormy West, got up by a head in the $75,000 Caress at Belmont Park and fifth-place Le Cordon Bleu returned to win an allowance at Suffolk Downs.

Mott and Clement have had mixed luck shipping into Philly Park for the Doc Penny, going a collective 1 for 4 since 2004, a win by the Mott-trained Pommes Frites in 2006.

Sharp Susan, 5 for 13 lifetime on turf, scored the biggest win of her career when she wired seven rivals in last summer's Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga. She hasn't shown the same zip in three starts this year, but she came home the last quarter-mile of the one-mile Just a Game last time out in 23.20 seconds, an excellent final fraction.

Clement brings in All Is Vanity, a speedy 4-year-old who was a Group 2 winner in France last year and just missed in the Grade 3 Beaugay Handicap at Aqueduct two starts ago.