03/13/2002 12:00AM

Belterra primed for '02 bow


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Asking a 3-year-old filly coming off a four-month hiatus to stay nine furlongs against a quality field seems like an ambitious undertaking. But perhaps it's not for a special filly such as Belterra, who will put her unblemished record on the line in Friday's $250,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The Grade 2 Bonnie Miss, the filly counterpart to Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby, drew Ms Brookski, upset winner of the Grade 3 Davona Dale Stakes; Stormy Frolic and Miu Miu, who finished fourth and sixth in the Davona Dale; the undefeated Nonsuch Bay; and recent allowance winner Dust Me Off.

Belterra was nothing short of sensational at 2, winning all three starts, including Churchill Downs' Grade 2 Golden Rod when she overcame trouble to defeat Take Charge Lady by nearly five lengths. Take Charge Lady opened her 3-year-old campaign by dominating the Fair Grounds Oaks and Silverbulletday Stakes.

Trainer Carl Nafzger has pinpointed the Bonnie Miss for Belterra's 3-year-old debut since her return to training this winter. While the Kentucky Oaks remains the filly's main goal, Nafzger emphasized that he is not using the Bonnie Miss simply as a prep.

"I haven't been training her the way I have just to get a race into her in the Bonnie Miss," said Nafzger. "If that was the plan, I'd start her back in an allowance race."

Belterra appears primed after Monday's final workout, when she breezed an effortless five furlongs in 1:00.

Ms Brookski, who rallied to a convincing 3 3/4-length victory in the Davona Dale, will race for Gary Tanaka, who purchased the filly privately from Phil Combest earlier this week. Jorge Chavez replaces injured Rosemary Homeister Jr. in the saddle.

Stormy Frolic, who easily defeated Ms Brookski in the Tropical Park Oaks, broke slowly and came up empty late in the Davona Dale but figures to improve. Stretch-running Miu Miu would appreciate an honest pace from stretch-out sprinter Nonsuch Bay and recent front-running allowance winner Dust Me Off.

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