Updated on 09/16/2011 8:10AM

Behold Bella Bellucci in Comely

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Bella Bellucci will be favored in Sunday's Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct.

JAMAICA, N.Y. - Every year, there is debate concerning the strength of the 3-year-old male division. The verdict is still out this year, but one thing is certain: This year's 3-year-old filly division is one of the strongest in memory.

Take Charge Lady, You, and Habibti top the division, while Bella Bellucci is waiting in the wings to make her bid for supremacy.

On Sunday at Aqueduct, Bella Bellucci, who has shown so much promise in four starts, will be the deserving favorite among seven fillies in the $100,000-added Comely Stakes, a Grade 3.

Bella Bellucci's trainer, Neil Drysdale, is using the one-mile Comely as a stepping-stone to the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 3.

Owned by Michael Tabor, Bella Bellucci finished third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile after winning her first two starts, including the Grade 2 Astarita.

In her 2002 debut, Bella Bellucci, a daughter of French Deputy, won the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Paula at Santa Anita on March 24.

Drysdale was pleased with Bella Bellucci's half-length win in the Santa Paula because he said sprinting isn't his filly's game.

"I hadn't put any speed in her because she's not really designed for speed," Drysdale said. "She settled nicely - I think she was still last turning for home - and picked it UP and made a nice run."

Gary Stevens rides Bella Bellucci from post 5.

Spring Meadow, beaten less than a length by Bella Bellucci in the Santa Paula, makes her East Coast debut for trainer Bob Hess Jr. Hess said Spring Meadow's Comely performance will dictate whether Hess stretches her out in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks or keeps her sprinting in Churchill's seven-furlong La Troienne, on May 2.

Spring Meadow, a Meadowlake filly, set a pressured pace through quick fractions in the Santa Paula and hung on for third in the five-horse field.

"She ran really well," Hess said. "She got pushed into a speed duel and the track that day wasn't favoring speed. Horses were coming from out of it. I think the world of Bella Bellucci, but it sort of set up for her."

Having said that, Hess still believes Bella Bellucci is the horse to beat in the Comely.

"Our filly can run her tail off and still finish second," Hess said.

Javier Castellano rides Spring Meadow, who drew post 6.

Nonsuch Bay, a winner of two of three starts, has the look of a future stakes winner after finishing second in her stakes debut in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss.

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