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Biancone Unveils Chilean Superstar in The Very One
By Ed Gray & Brian Skirka
Biancone Unveils Chilean Superstar In The Very One
Belle Watling has won 13 of 16 races, including her last 10 races against the very best horses in her native Chile, so there really wouldn’t seem to be a whole lot of room for improvement. Her connections just have to figure out ways to help the 5-year-old mare to settle into her new surroundings.
Carl Lizza of the Bell Watling Syndicate that purchased the Chilean champion and imported her to the U.S. in December, as well as trainer Patrick Biancone, have done everything possible to keep her happy.
“In her stall she was very nervous,” said Lizza of Belle Watling’s early days at Gulfstream Park. “There was English music in her stall. When it was changed to Spanish music, she calmed right down.”
When made aware that Belle Watling was for sale last fall, Biancone flew to Chile to inspect the daughter of Dushyantor and watch her train.
“She’s a beautiful animal. She’s a big filly with a big stride. I spent three or four days there with the trainer,” said the French trainer who entered the U.S. racing scene at Santa Anita in 2000. “The most important thing is to get her acclimated.”
Belle Watling has satisfied her trainer with her training progress at Gulfstream enough for Biancone to enter her in Sunday’s $100,000 The Very One (G3), a 1-3/8-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares.
The Chilean-bred mare was purchased with the $10 million Dubai World Cup in mind. Whether or not she will actually travel to Dubai late next month, her connections apparently also have their focus on the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November.
“She likes a distance, which is what we like. That’s the reason we wanted to buy her – because we like to have mile-and-a-quarter horses here,” Biancone said. “There are a lot of big races over here, especially at the end of the year at a mile and a quarter.”
After Belle Watling was purchased, Biancone tried to bring her groom and exercise rider to the U.S. for a few months but ran into visa problems.
“She’s taken a bit of time, but I think she’s become used to us,” he said. “She has a new groom who takes very good care of her. She has her own rider who rides her every day. So far we’re happy.”
Belle Watling has brought an extremely broad resume to the U.S., including victories from 5-1/2 furlongs to 1-1/2 miles while beating the best South American males in Group1 stakes on grass and dirt. Her only three losses came at distances of a mile (twice) and seven furlongs, prompting her former trainer Patricio Baeza to advise Biancone not to race Belle Watling at a distance shorter than 1-1/8 miles.
Amen Hallelujah Ready For Sabin
The program comment for Amen Hallelujah’s last race – a fifth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint three weeks ago at Gulfstream Park – reads “best stride late.”
That race was at six furlongs. Saturday’s Sabin (G3) is at a mile.
Trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. believes that’s enough to make the difference for his 4-year-old filly who will be making her second start off nearly a seven-month layoff in Saturday’s ninth race.
“I thought she ran OK last time considering it was off a layoff,” Dutrow said. “She gets a little more distance this time which should help.”
Last year, Amen Hallelujah won a pair of Grade 2 stakes races including the Davona Dale at Gulfstream.
The daughter of Montbrook finished second in Belmont’s Acorn (G1) in June before being sidelined for the remainder of the year. Amen Hallelujah raced well back in the pack in her comeback race last month before rallying late to finish fifth beaten less than two lengths by Aegean.
Amen Hallelujah has had one official workout since her race in the Sunshine Millions – a four-furlong move over the Gulfstream turf in :49.
“We’ve breezed her over the turf before,” Dutrow said. “She likes it. She went well.”
Sassy Image Has Room To Improve In Sabin
Like her Sabin rival Amen Hallelujah, Jerry Romans’ Sassy Image came off a lengthy layoff to make her 2011 debut at Gulfstream Park last month.
Like Rick Dutrow, trainer Dale Romans believes his 4-year-old filly has plenty of room to improve on Saturday.
“I thought her last race was good,” Romans said. “She should move forward off of it. She’s breezed very well since then.”
In her first start since Feb. 2010, Sassy Image finished a rallying second last out, ending up just a length behind Catch a Thief who she will also meet on Saturday.
The daughter of Broken Vow has only raced three times since her 2-year-old season in which she won the Grade 3 Pocahontas and Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs.
“The one-turn mile – I think that’s going to be her game,” Romans said. “She got hurt as a 3-year-old but has come back well and has lots of room to improve.”
Free Fighter Returns To Turf For Mac Diarmida
One thing’s for sure – Free Fighter will relish the distance of Saturday’s Grade 2 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park.
The 6-year-old gelding spent the second half of 2010 running almost exclusively in turf marathons ranging from 1 ¼ miles all the way up to 1 5/8 miles. The Mac Diarmida will be run at 1 3/8 miles.
“He’s doing really well,” trainer Chris Block said. “This is his distance. I think anywhere from a mile and three eighths to a mile and a half is what he wants to do.”
Last out in Calder’s W.L. McKnight – a 12-furlong event rained off the turf and run on the main track – Free Fighter finished second, 2 ½ lengths behind Grade 1 winner Prince Will I Am.
The two will meet again on Saturday as part of a 13-horse field scheduled for the Mac Diarmida.
“He’s been training great since his last race at Calder,” Block said. “He had been training up in Ocala and we brought him down here recently to get him ready for this race.”
Free Fighter could get a good pace scenario in front of him with a trio of horses – Gabriel’s Hill, Rahy’s Attorney and Citrus Kid – in the field who have recently shown the propensity to press or be on the early lead going shorter.
“Ideally, I’d like to see the speed settle and him fall into place right behind them,” Block said.