06/29/2006 11:00PM

Astoria next step for Octave


ELMONT, N.Y. - Considering he accounted for 10 of the 25 juvenile fillies nominated to Sunday's $100,000 Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park, it only figures trainer Todd Pletcher has the horse to beat.

Octave, a daughter of Unbridled's Song, heads the field of seven entered in the 5 1/2-furlong Astoria, the first stakes for 2-year-olds run in New York this year.

won her career debut in a very professional effort at Churchill Downs on May 27. Breaking from post 2 in an 11-horse field, Octave settled into fifth position early on, tipped four wide for the stretch drive, and wore down After Curfew. The best part of the race was the end, in which she really kicked clear to win by 2 1/2 furlongs in a respectable 51.41 seconds for 4 1/2 furlongs.

"She showed us she was handy enough in the morning where 4 1/2 would be okay," Pletcher said. "She trained well for it and kind of ran to her training. It was a professional race. She's done well since the race."

Octave shows two solid five-furlong works at Churchill since her win and figures to get a good pace setup in her stretch-out to 5 1/2 furlongs. Octave will have to deal with the disadvantageous rail post under John Velazquez.

Pletcher will also send out One Tough Belle, who won a New York-bred maiden race here by 6 1/2 lengths on June 1. Jockey Garrett Gomez really pushed on her leaving the gate to make the lead, and she drew away with authority in the stretch.

"We maybe rushed her up there a little more than we wanted to, but in spite of that she still ran pretty well," Pletcher said.

Mike Luzzi rides One Tough Belle from post 3.

finished a neck apart in a maiden race at Aqueduct in April. Whereas Desire to Excel got off to a good start in recording a front-running score, Run Miss Eltishrun broke slowly before rallying in the stretch. She came back 19 days later to win a maiden race at Delaware.

"We worked with her a little bit," said Timothy Salzman, who trains Run Miss Eltishrun. "I took her back to the gate, and she just broke so sharp [at Delaware] and came away from there, sort of what I was looking for in the New York race."

Cool the Economy finished second in her debut, but broke slowly and raced greenly while down on the rail. Her outside draw may help in the Astoria.

She's Roughin It and Shelby's Memory complete the field.