08/11/2004 11:00PM

B.B. Best to bloom or bust?


MIAMI - Bettors may wonder which B.B. Best will show up for Saturday's $75,000 Dr. Fager Stakes. But B.B. Best's trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. is confident it will be the one who won his first two career starts by a combined 18 lengths rather than the one who finished a badly beaten fourth as the 1-5 favorite in the Criterium Stakes.

The six-furlong Dr. Fager and its filly counterpart, the six-furlong Desert Vixen Stakes, make up the first round of the $1.2 Florida Stallion Stakes series. The outcome of both races could be affected by Hurricane Charley, which was expected to dump a substantial amount of rain here beginning Friday.

B.B. Best took the local 2-year-old division by storm by winning his debut by 14 3/4 lengths and returning to capture the Wynn Dot Comma Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths over Devils Disciple. But B.B. Best's reputation suffered a severe blow after he finished 13 1/2 lengths behind Devils Disciple in the Criterium, a performance that left Plesa scratching his head searching for an explanation.

"I haven't been able to find a thing wrong with him since the Criterium, and he's training great coming into this race," said Plesa, who will also send out Favre in the Dr. Fager. "The only thing I can think of is that he was faced with different circumstances when outrun to the lead for the first time, never really got settled, probably got a little nervous, and might have flipped his palate."

B.B. Best, who is owned in partnership by Bea Oxenberg and Laurie Plesa, has worked four times since the Criterium, two of which were bullets and two which were the second-fastest at the distance.

"When something happens to a horse that's not completely black and white, you have to be a little apprehensive before their next start - but I'm confident he'll run his best race on Saturday," said Plesa. "How far he'll ultimately go is probably the biggest question, but right now distance, especially this distance, is of no concern to me."

While Plesa believes B.B. Best will give him his best chance of winning a seventh Stallion Stakes race, he also looks for Favre to run well in the Dr. Fager. Favre finished a well-beaten second to the stakes-placed Actxecutive in his career debut before returning to score an easy 4 1/2-length victory in his next start.

"Favre's a very nice horse, no ifs, ands, or buts about it," said Plesa. "And if B.B. doesn't run his best race I think Favre can win it."

The Plesa duo tops a field of eight juvenile colts entered for the Dr. Fager. The remainder of the field is: Cherokee Chase, Captain Lindsay, Fairy Image, Monti's Lad, Hal's Image, and Hostile Witness.

Captain Lindsay and Monti's Lad each won his only start. Captain Lindsay, a son of former Stallion Stakes winner Devilish Brunette by Mecke, led throughout for an easy three-length maiden victory. Monti's Lad used similar front-running tactics to easily defeat a field of high-priced claimers.

A wide-open field of 12 2-year-old fillies was drawn for the Desert Vixen, led by Aclassysassylassy and Yes It's Gold.

Aclassysassylassy finished second behind division leader Punch Appeal in the J J'sdream Stakes after winning her career debut by 12 1/2 lengths. Yes It's Gold bounced back from a disappointing effort in the J J'dream to finish second behind Punch Appeal in the Chispiski Stakes.

Other key contenders in the Desert Vixen include the undefeated pair of Cut the Mustard and Midtown Miss, Halo Jamerica, Leona's Knight, and Plesa's speedy Inrightclassitime.