03/21/2002 12:00AM

Bella Cash's big 'if' is ability on turf


PHOENIX, Ariz. - Bella Cash is one of the best 3-year-old fillies on the Turf Paradise grounds, so the issue isn't ability. But Saturday's $30,000 Scottsdale Handicap here presents a new hurdle for her - turf.

Coming off big wins in the Arizona Oaks and Cactus Cup - both on dirt - Bella Cash will attempt to solidify her position near the top of the local 3-year-old filly division going a mile on the turf.

She hasn't exactly scared potential rivals away. Under a 124-pound highweight impost, she will deal with nine foes.

A Dennis Sowers-trained filly, Bella Cash has been a model of consistency, finishing in the money in all eight of her races. She was, however, disqualified in her debut from second to ninth, leaving her with a career four wins and three thirds. She's won at distances from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. Her style has been consistent regardless of the trip. She bides her time early, then blasts home - and it brings her into the Scottsdale on a two-race win streak.

Her sire, Chromite, gets about 7 percent turf winners, according to Daily Racing Form sire stats. That's not exactly a glowing endorsement for her on turf, but it isn't bad either. Glen Corbett rides. The filly breaks from post 3.

Another thing in Bella Cash's favor is there isn't a lot of proven turf form among the opposition. Second highweight Queen Marge (119) just ran second to Bella Cash in the Cactus Cup after two monstrous wins.

However, not only has Queen Marge never been on turf, she also has never routed. Queen Marge is by Derby winner Grindstone, however, so a handicapper might assume that a mile will be no sweat for her.

Fool's Mate comes into the race off two smart wins against optional claimers, both at a mile, but as with Bella Cash and Queen marge has yet to try turf. She worked well on the turf course March 19, going a half mile in 48.40 seconds, so first impressions are she can handle it. She gets in at 118 pounds.

The most interesting entrant may be Acure for Geri. Trained by Bill Tollett, she is a maiden winner only, but she has done something the others haven't done - run on turf. Not only was her maiden victory on this turf course March 9 but also it was at this trip, and despite being very wide into the lane she came home strongly to win. That marked just her second career race so she's got plenty of upside. Also, she is by Geri, a major stakes winner on both surfaces. On turf, Geri won the Woodbine Mile and was second to Spinning World in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile.

So the pedigree is there for Acure for Geri to prosper on the green.

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