Updated on 09/16/2011 7:10AM

Bella Bellucci victorious in Comely Stakes

Email

JAMAICA, N.Y - Bella Bellucci confirmed her status as a major player for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks with an easy-as-expected, seven-length victory in Sunday's $108,200, Grade 3 at Aqueduct.

Reserved early on in fourth position in the five-horse field, Bella Bellucci gradually moved toward the pace-setting Short Note down the backside and around the turn, collaring that rival approaching the eighth pole and drawing clear with only mild encouragement from Gary Stevens. Bella Bellucci covered the mile in 1:35.50, the fastest time since the Comely was made a mile in 1994. She returned $3.20 as the 3-5 favorite.

Short Note held second, 3 1/2 lengths clear of Nonsuch Bay. Spring Meadow and Salem Willow completed the order of finish. Vesta and Fresh Tracks were scratched.

The victory was the fourth in five career starts for Bella Bellucci, whose lone loss came when she finished third in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. It was her second win this year, coming off a half-length victory in the 6 1/2 furlong Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita on March 24.

When she runs in the Kentucky Oaks, Bella Bellucci will be making her first start at nine furlongs and first around two turns. Neither is viewed as obstacles by her connections.

"I just wanted to get two comfortable races into her before the Oaks," said Neil Drysdale, who trains Bella Bellucci for Michael Tabor. "I don't see any distance limitations with her."

Drysdale pointed out that Kurofone, a full-brother to Bella Bellucci, won a 10-furlong stakes on dirt in Japan.

Stevens said he was surprised when he came back and saw the race had been run in fractions of 22.96 seconds, 45.82 and 1:09.76.

"She's very deceptive; she's got a real long, fluid stride," Stevens said. "She felt like they were going in 48. That's absolutely a good feeling to have."

The Oaks promises to be a stellar race with the likes of Take Charge Lady, Tempera, Imperial Gesture, You, Habibti and Belterra all likely to compete.

"Take Charge Lady has been ultra-impressive," Stevens said of the likely Oaks favorite. "I'd put this filly in the same category."