Despite slim margin, Gorella much the best

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Heavy favorites are usually expected to win by a lot more than the neck by which Gorella won Saturday's Grade 2 Just a Game Handicap at Belmont Park. But in this case, however, the win margin was completely misleading. Gorella was as impressive as can be in the $300,000 turf stakes, as she spotted a huge, uncontested lead to Pommes Frites, who is in the finest form of her career, and still wore that opponent down with a furious rally to win going away.

"The jock [Julien Leparoux] has very cool nerves, and I could see that when he didn't use the whip, and just hand rode, that he knew he was going to get there," said Gorella's trainer, Patrick Biancone. "The easiest thing would have been to be behind Pommes Frites, but with carrying top weight [of 120 pounds], and on soft ground, I was scared it might be too much.

"But when I saw Pommes Frites go 48 and change, I knew she was going to die, because 48 and change on this ground is like 46 and change on firm ground."

Over a Widener turf course officially labeled "yielding," Pommes Frites opened up an early lead that ranged anywhere from six to eight lengths, as Gorella trailed in a field that scratched down to four following the withdrawals of Wend and Bright Abundance. After fractions of 24.94 seconds, 48.89, and 1:12.77, Pommes Frites still had five lengths on Gorella, but Gorella would not be denied, completing the mile in 1:37.14 and returning $3.20. Pommes Frites was easily second, 7 1/4 lengths before Ozone Bere, with Mirabilis a distant fourth.

Biancone said the next potential target for Gorella could be either the CashCall Mile at Hollywood Park or, more likely, the Beverly D. at Arlington Park.