03/02/2002 1:00AM

Bema wins Busher in blinkers


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Showing improved speed with blinkers added, odds-on favorite Bema tracked pacesetter Cobblestone Road along the backstretch, caught that rival on the far turn, and drove clear under Javier Castellano for a 3 1/4-length triumph in Saturday's $80,875 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct.

Bema, whose task became easier when recent Busanda winner Totaly Wild was scratched because of an upper respiratory infection, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.99 for her first stakes victory, and earned $48,525 for Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.

A 3-year-old filly by Pulpit, Bema paid $3.80 to win, and improved her record to three wins from eight starts.

It was Bema's third start following a trainer change from Frank Brothers to Shug McGaughey, and she wore blinkers for the first time after lagging nearly 10 lengths off the early leaders in a second-level allowance Feb. 14.

"The blinkers put her up into the race," said McGaughey assistant trainer Buzz Tenney. "She blew out in 34 2/5 [seconds] with the blinkers on, so I thought she would be up close today. We'll probably give her a little more time until her next race, which might be the Fantasy [April 12 at Oaklawn Park]."

Sideways rallied outside the winner approaching the stretch and finished well for second in a strung-out field of five. Cobblestone Road managed to hold third. Dancing Blues finished fourth. Leveche, who had won her first two starts at Laurel by a combined 26 lengths, finished last.