Penna-trained Chaibia Dangerous in Athenia

Malcolm E. Parrish's 3-year-old, Irish-bred Chaibia finished a respectable fourth in last month's Garden City Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) at Belmont Park. Sunday, she'll tackle older horses for the first time in the 29th running of the $100,000 Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/16 miles.

A three-time winner from eight starts, Chaibia stacks up well against her elders entered in the race. Racing in France over the spring and summer, she won a $60,000 stakes race at Longchamp and finished a close-up fourth in the Prix Saint-Alary (Fr-I). Chaibia capped her 2006 European campaign with a 13-1 upset win in the Prix de Psyche (Fr-III) during the Deauville meet.

Chaibia played her part through most of the running in the Garden City, although she flattened out through the last 100 yards after racing inside. Knowing he was going to take over the training of Chaibia after the Garden City, trainer Angel Penna Jr. watched the race with great interest.

"It looked like the rider wanted to be close to the pace, but she had never run that close in her life," said Penna, who won the Athenia in 1987 with Lead Kindly Light and again in 2001 with Verruma.
"Personally, I think she was too close. She's better when she can settle and come with a late run."

Naturally, Penna is still getting to know Chaibia, as he's had her for only a month. Still, he says the positive vibes she is giving off on looks and training are hard to ignore.

"I'm very happy with the way she's doing," Penna said. "We're stepping up against older horses, but the cream of the crop is not here. Pommes Frites is a very nice filly, but she is not a grade I winner. In the spring, I would not take a shot against older horses, but at this time of the year you have to. The worst risk of all is not taking one."

The daughter of Peintre Celebre, who will be ridden by John Velazquez, drew post two.

Bright Abundance is a cut below the best female turf horses in New York and is a serious threat to take all the money here. Trained by Christophe Clement, Bright Abundance won the Noble Damsel (gr. IIIT) over the Widener Turf in September 2005. This year, she is winless in five starts, but make no mistake--Bright Abundance has run big in defeat, finishing second to the likes of Melhor Ainda and recent Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) winner Asi Siempre. Needless to say, Bright Abundance's regular rider, Richard Migliore, is one of her biggest fans.

"She's very honest," said Migliore, who won the Athenia three years ago with Caught in the Rain. "She's very tactical. I do think she really appreciates the Widener course at Belmont because it gives her a chance to get reasonable position."

Bright Abundance, a mare by Quiet American who has earned nearly $300,000, drew the outside post, a good spot.

Pommes Frites may start around 6-5 and is a deserving favorite for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. By Dynaformer, Pommes Frites has been better than ever this season as a 4-year-old, going 4-2-0 from six starts. In April, she notched the first stakes victory of her career in Aqueduct's Beaugay (gr. IIIT). In July, she won Philadelphia Park's Dr. Penny Memorial. Pommes Frites has also run huge in defeat, losing Just a Game (gr. IIT) on Belmont Stakes Day by a neck to Gorella - the nation's top female turf horse – and the aforementioned Noble Damsel to Karen's Caper, one of the favorites in Saturday's First Lady (gr. IIT) at Keeneland.

Pommes Frites is quick, and she will be the inside speed after breaking from the rail. She is, however, likely to have some company early in the form of the Bobby Frankel-trained Virden.

Frankel, another Hall of Fame trainer, has the uncoupled pair of Virden and Dream Lady. They aren't as classy as Pommes Frites or Bright Abundance, but their presence gives Frankel a solid 1-2 punch in this spot. Virden has enough speed to keep Pommes Frites honest, while Dream Lady - who enters the Athenia off a minor stakes win at Monmouth Park - should bide her time near the back of the pack.

Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT), fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles, turf, $100,000-added, Belmont Park, Sunday, Oct. 15
PP - Horse - Jockey - Wt
1 - Pommes Frites - Jose Santos - 118
2 - Chaibai - John Velazquez - 113
3 - Thetactics Ofdance - Cornelio Velasquez - 114
4 - Isabel Away - Jean-Luc Samyn - 110
5 - Virden - Bobby Frankel - Javier Castellano - 114
6 - (s) Dream Lady - Bobby Frankel - Edgar Prado - 115
7 - Marchonin - Fernando Jara - 114
8 - Bright Abundance - Richard Migiore - 115
(s) Supplement