04/30/2002 11:00PM

Bella Bellucci out of Oaks


This will not go down as the happiest week in the life of trainer Neil Douglas Drysdale. First he had his courtesy car re-claimed by Churchill Downs. Then he had his Kentucky Derby contender, Sunday Break, excluded from Saturday's race because of insufficient earnings in graded stakes races. And then Wednesday morning, Drysdale was forced to scratch his outstanding 3-year-old filly Bella Bellucci from Friday's Kentucky Oaks.

"Very frustrating," Drysdale said Wednesday morning, when he let it known that Bella Bellucci would have to be scratched. Drysdale said he had routine blood work tests earlier this week on all of the horses he has stabled at Churchill Downs, and that two of them came back with results that were not satisfactory.

"She's a little imbalanced," Drysdale said of Bella Bellucci. "My fear is that she might get sick, so I'm being cautious. I'm afraid that if I ran her I'd knock her out."

Bella Bellucci has won 4 of 5 starts, including the Comely Stakes on April 14 at Aqueduct. She was considered one of the leading contenders for the Oaks. Drysdale said he did not know where Bella Bellucci would race next, because he first wants to make sure she is well.

Bella Bellucci's defection was the latest blow to strike the Oaks. The champion filly Tempera had to be euthanized last weekend after suffering from colitis and laminitis, and Belterra was not entered in the Oaks because trainer Carl Nafzger said she had not recovered sufficiently from recent throat surgery.