Updated on 09/16/2011 7:02AM

Bella Bellucci will have work to do


ARCADIA, Calif. - The $75,000 Santa Paula Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita is not a free pass for Bella Bellucci, one of the nation's top 2-year-old fillies of 2001.

With the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 as her springtime goal, Bella Bellucci makes her 3-year-old debut in the Santa Paula, facing four fillies who are well suited to the distance of 6 1/2 furlongs.

Bella Bellucci's rivals have all won sprints at this meeting, but none has accomplished as much as the favorite. Last year, Bella Bellucci won 2 of 3 starts, including the Grade 2 Astarita Stakes at Belmont Park. She finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in October, losing by five lengths to Tempera after leading in early stretch.

Owned by Michael Tabor, Bella Bellucci is expected to have a prep for the Kentucky Oaks in April. Trainer Neil Drysdale said plans for April have not been finalized, but said he is pleased with the filly's progress.

"She's training well and has done well through the winter," Drysdale said. "She's grown up and is stronger."

Bella Bellucci will be ridden by Mike Smith, who was aboard for her maiden win last September.

"We know she wants to go farther," Smith said, but, he added, 6 1/2 furlongs "is a good place to start.

"She's got some move. She makes up ground so fast."

Bella Bellucci is a stalker who will have ample pace to chase. The other four starters will ensure a fast fractions. One or two may have the stamina to give Bella Bellucci a test in her first start of the year.

Shameful and Spring Meadow have the biggest chance for an upset.

Shameful is unbeaten in two sprints for trainer Bob Baffert, showing speed in both races. She won a maiden race on Jan. 21 and a first-condition allowance race by four lengths on Feb. 7. Spring Meadow was the four-length winner of a maiden race on Jan. 6, but was an overmatched fifth behind You and Habibti in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 10.

A victory by Boozin' Susan or Icantgoforthat would be a surprise. Boozin' Susan won a maiden race by four lengths on Feb. 18 and has worked fast in recent weeks at Turf Paradise.

Icantgoforthat has won two allowance races at this meeting, and was a game second in the Boo la Boo Stakes for California-breds on Feb. 16. She was claimed for $50,000 last November and has earned $90,480 so far this year.

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