04/27/2005 12:00AM

Angara has little trouble in Bewitch

Bill Straus
Angara, with jockey Gary Stevens up, draws clear in the stretch and scores a 1 3/4-length victory in Wednesday's Bewitch at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - As the field passed through the stretch for the first time in the 1 1/2-mile at Keeneland on Wednesday, jockey Gary Stevens had a firm hold of favored Angara. Racing down the stretch for the second and final time, his pose hardly changed. It didn't need to - she easily won the Grade 3, $109,300 Bewitch, scoring by 1 3/4 lengths before a crowd of 9,225 at Keeneland.

Not even a dawdling pace could slow Angara. She settled in fourth early, as My Dear Lady set fractions of 26.50 seconds, 55.16, and 1:21.95 over a wet, tiring course listed as good by Equibase. Stevens kept Angara in that position until the field neared the stretch, and then turned her loose.

Once allowed to run, she quickly shot to the lead and was never challenged, with Stevens looking around for the competition in the stretch.

"She was playing with them," he said.

Angara won for the fourth time in eight starts. She raced 1 1/2 miles in 2:36.24, paying $3.80 as the favorite.

Stevens credited trainer Patrick Biancone for having Angara so well prepared following an allowance victory over the Keeneland turf course just 11 days earlier.

Cape Town Lass rallied from seventh to be second. Strike Me Lucky was three lengths farther back in third. Noble Stella, the 7-2 second choice with one minute to post, was a late scratch by the track veterinarian as the field approached the starting gate.

Biancone said he was unconcerned about Angara trying the 1 1/2-mile Bewitch distance for the first time, citing her experience in France in slow-paced races prior to her arrival in the United States. He attributed her success to the locale.

"She likes Keeneland very much, like me," he said.