10/18/2001 11:00PM

BC Juvenile Fillies - Stevens: Drysdale has Bella Bellucci primed to win


ELMONT, N.Y. - No horse has won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with fewer than three previous starts. For those who fear that Bella Bellucci cannot become the first to win with just two prior races, jockey Gary Stevens will try to put your mind at ease.

"Normally, I'd say experience would be a big factor," said Stevens, who has worked Bella Bellucci in the mornings and ridden her once in the afternoon. "But this filly's got a lot of training under her. She's been ready to run for probably 2 1/2 months."

Stevens added that Neil Drysdale, the trainer of Bella Bellucci, "is the best in my eyes at planning for specific races. He's done it throughout his career. We've had the Breeders' Cup in mind before she ever started."

When it comes to the Breeders' Cup, few have achieved more success than Drysdale. His six Breeders' Cup wins put him third behind D. Wayne Lukas (16) and Shug McGaughey (7). But his

27 percent winning rate is the best among trainers with 10 or more starts.

Last year, following a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Drysdale pointed War Chant to the Breeders' Cup Mile and got the victory with just one turf prep in between.

Michael Tabor purchased Bella Bellucci for $925,000 at Fasig-Tipton Calder sale in February after she breezed an eighth of a mile in 10.40 seconds. Shortly, thereafter she joined Drysdale's California stable.

As Stevens mentioned, Drysdale had Bella Bellucci ready to run during the summer. On Sept. 2, she was entered at Del Mar in a maiden race, but landed on the also-eligible list, and did not draw in. Drysdale decided to ship Bella Bellucci to New York as part of 18 head he would have for the Belmont fall meet.

Bella Bellucci, a daughter of French Deputy, debuted on Sept. 9, in a six-furlong maiden race. With Stevens in Canada, Mike Smith was aboard. Bella Bellucci broke slowly, and raced five-wide down the backside and around the turn. With hardly any encouragement from Smith, Bella Bellucci charged powerfully through the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths.

Four weeks later, in the Grade 2 Astarita, Bella Bellucci broke better under Stevens and was able to run down a loose-on-the-lead Forest Heiress, who entered the race undefeated in three starts.

"We had a hell of a battle on our hands the last eighth of a mile, and she needed that," Stevens said. "She had never been touched with the whip before, she passed all the tests the other day.

"I made her gallop out another furlong after the race, and she galloped out a good strong mile," Stevens added. "She got a good blow. It put her where she needs to be."

The next test for Bella Bellucci is stretching out from 6 1/2 furlongs to 8 1/2 furlongs.

"Her pedigree says that's what she wants to do and that's what she's shown us in the mornings," Stevens said. "I'm as confident as we can be going into the unknown, and it's the unknown for everybody."

Added Drysdale: "I don't think she'll be limited by distance. I don't envision any problems there. She's very professional. I think Bella Bellucci will improve again."

No work planned for Jealous Forum

Jealous Forum, runner-up in the Canadian Grade 1 Mazarine Breeders' Cup Handicap, arrived at Belmont Friday afternoon by van from Woodbine. Trainer Mark Casse said he would not work the filly between now the Breeders' Cup, saying he just wants the filly to be relaxed.

"For her to have any chance she's going to have to relax," Casse said. "I believe it's best not to do any more with her."

- Shesastonecoldfox returned to the track Friday for the first time since her workout on Tuesday. She simply jogged under jockey P.J. Lydon. "I don't want to do too much with her" trainer Mike Ferraro said. "She can't weigh 900 pounds. She came out of her work excellent."