04/23/2009 12:00AM

Beltene dropping in class for Melair


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Beltene is back where she fits best Saturday at Hollywood Park, and if the stretch-running filly can stay two turns, she can win the $200,000 Melair Stakes (race 6) for 3-year-old fillies bred in California.

"I'm not really worried about the distance," trainer Jack Carava said, despite a sixth-place finish by Beltene in her only other try at a route, in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks.

"She actually ran a lot better than I thought she would," Carava said. "I missed a bunch of time with her, and she came up to the race without the training I thought she needed to go long."

Beltene finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Stardom Bound.

Saturday, there are no excuses. Beltene faces an easier field than she met last time in the Grade 3 Santa Paula, which was won by the freakishly fast Arizona-bred Carlsbad. Beltene drops from graded stakes to a route for California-breds, and if she catches front-runner Ten Churros, Beltene can add to her 3-for-5 record and win the Melair under Joel Rosario.

Beltene, owned by La Canada Stable, is stabled at Santa Anita, where Carava said her training has gone according to plan.

"My biggest fear is shipping over to a new place," he said. "She's a little bit flighty, typical Unusual Heat, but if she stays settled, I think she's got a great chance."

In fact, she should be favored, and Carava is confident two turns will not be an issue. That is not the case with Ten Churros, whose stamina is debatable.

Distance "is always an issue with her," trainer Bob Baffert said. "But she's been training well and she's speed. She'll carry it as far as she can."

Ten Churros has won 2 of 8; her two previous route races were second- and third-place finishes last fall.

Ten Churros is by High Brite and is making her first start since Jan. 24, when she finished eighth in the Sunshine Millions Oaks won by Beltene. Mike Smith rides Ten Churros.

Baffert, who is at Churchill Downs preparing Pioneerof the Nile for the Kentucky Derby, also entered the improving Victory Dancer. She won a solid maiden race Feb. 12 in her first start around two turns, then regressed against older winners. Her class is undetermined.

"She didn't run as well as when she broke her maiden, but I think she will" Saturday, Baffert said. "And she will run long."

The pace in the Melair should be strong. In addition to Ten Churros, the field includes stretch-out sprinters Yodelady O, Costa Marta, and Chalula One. Others in the lineup are Hudler, Spanish Ice, and Pretty Unusual.