Updated on 09/16/2011 8:03AM

Bella Bellucci best in Santa Paula Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. - Bella Bellucci won the $80,925 on Sunday with a last-to-first move in the final furlong.

Making her first start since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last October, Bella Bellucci remained on target for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 3 with her second stakes win in the Santa Paula.

Trainer Neil Drysdale said Bella Bellucci will have another prep in the Grade 3 Comely Stakes over a mile at Aqueduct on April 14.

Even though Bella Bellucci was favored in the Santa Paula, run over 6 1-2 furlongs, Drysdale was impressed with her late rally.

"We haven't put any speed in her at all," Drysdale said. "We're not trying to make her a sprinter."

Ridden by Mike Smith, Bella Bellucci ($3.60) was timed in 1:16.36.

On the backstretch, she was last of five, trailing pacesetters Spring Meadow and Incantgforthat by 6 1-2 lengths through an opening quarter-mile in 21.78 seconds. Bella Bellucci was still five lengths off the pace after a half-mile in 44.51 seconds.

In early stretch, Smith launched a wide rally, but did not begin to make headway on the leaders until the eighth-pole. Through the final furlong, she drew closer with each stride and won by a half-length over Shameful.

"It was the perfect trip," Drysdale said. "He gave her a nice ride. He didn't rush her."

Spring Meadow finished third, followed by Icantgoforthat and Boozin' Susan. Bella Bellucci has won 3 of 4 starts and $256,300. Last fall, she won the Grade 2 Astarita Breeders' Cup Stakes at Belmont Park.

*Smith scored a stakes double with a frontrunning win aboard Hugh Hefner ($16.20) in the $139,125 for California-breds.

Run during a brief rainstorm, Hugh Hefner was challenged by Flying Rudolph for the first half-mile, and held off Spinelessjellyfish in the stretch to win the one-mile turf race by a nose. Native Desert, the 2-1 favorite who was making his fifth consecutive appearance in the Crystal Water, finished third.

The 5-year-old Hugh Hefner ran a mile on turf in 1:34.39. Owned by Edward Nahem and trained by Marty Jones, Hugh Hefner has won 3 of 10 starts and $251,330. The winner of the 1999 California Sires Stakes, Hugh Hefner was unplaced in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the 2000 Preakness and Belmont Stakes before being sidelined by injury. The Crystal Water Handicap was the second start of his comeback.