04/13/2003 11:00PM

Belterra likely stakes favorite, thanks to You


LEXINGTON, Ky. - There is one "u" in Doubledogdare, but no You. That bit of news can only be good for the six fillies and mares left to run Wednesday in the feature race at Keeneland, the $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes.

With trainer Bobby Frankel deciding to bypass the Keeneland meet with You and waiting instead for the May 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs, the horse to beat in the 1 1/16-mile Doubledogdare appears to be Belterra, the Carl Nafzger-trained 4-year-old who is trying to run her way back into the top echelon of North America's filly and mare ranks.

At 2, Belterra was a star in her division, winning all three of her starts with ease. But she encountered problems at 3, winning just once in three tries before going on the shelf for the balance of the year following an allowance victory in June at Churchill.

Belterra returned to action this winter at Gulfstream, finishing third behind Gold Mover in the March 16 Hurricane Bertie Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. The Doubledogdare "is back where she belongs, around two turns," Ian Wilkes, Nafzger's longtime assistant, said Monday at Churchill. "We're hoping to get a good race out of her. If she's there, she's there."

Belterra, owned by former Maryland Jockey Club partner Bob Manfuso, will be ridden by Jose Santos and break from post 4 in the Doubledogdare.

Maybe the top competition for Belterra will come from Ifyouprefersilver, winner of the recent Lady Hallie at Hawthorne, or Salty Farma, a sharp recent winner at Delta Downs. Seven Four Seven, who dominated the filly and mare ranks at Turfway this winter, also has a solid chance.

Rounding out the field are Reason to Talk and Extend.

The Doubledogdare, named for the Claiborne Farm star of the 1950's, has been won by a string of top fillies since being revived in 1998, including Silverbulletday (2000) and Dancethruthedawn (2002).

* By waiting for the $300,000 Louisville BC, You, who was scratched by Frankel from the April 9 Madison Stakes at seven furlongs, most likely will face far tougher competition. Take Charge Lady, who was narrowly defeated by defending Horse of the Year Azeri in the April 5 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park, is possible for the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile race.