10/07/2001 11:00PM

Bella Bellucci deals 'Heiress' first loss


ELMONT, N.Y. - Bella Bellucci earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Monday by rallying from last to run down front-running Forest Heiress and take the Grade 2 $103,400 Astarita Stakes by one-half length at blustery Belmont Park.

Forest Heiress, who had won all three of her previous starts, finished six lengths ahead of Speed to Burn. Argentina finished last. Ghost Wrestling was scratched.

Bella Bellucci, a daughter of French Deputy, was coming off an impressive debut victory on Sept. 9 when she broke slowly and rallied five wide to win while never being hit with the stick. Monday, she broke better was still last before advancing into contention around the turn.

Bella Bellucci crept up alongside Forest Heiress inside the sixteenth pole and outfinished that rival to the wire.

Jorge Chavez, aboard Forest Heiress, was late asking his filly to run, but he said she was getting a little tired late.

Bella Bellucci covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.37 - equaling the second-fastest of 25 Astaritas run at the distance ? while returning $3.30 as the favorite.

"Today, we knew she'd break a little sharper, which she did, she put herself right in the race," said winning rider Gary Stevens. "I just wanted to rate her the first part and make sure she knew how to come home the last part. The other filly got away with some real soft fractions. We had to work to get by her; it was nice."

Trainer Neil Drysdale said he was impressed with how Bella Bellucci, who was giving up two races in experience to Forest Heiress, was able to run that filly down. Drysdale said that Bella Bellucci would be pointed to the Juvenile Fillies here on Oct. 27 where she will try to stretch out from 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 furlongs.

"The way she galloped out, I don't think there'll be any problem with that," said Drysdale, who trains the $925,000 yearling purchase for Michael Tabor.