03/12/2002 12:00AM

Bigger tests lie ahead for Belterra


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Even if she wins - as the vast majority of horseplayers will be expecting her to do - the more demanding tests apparently will have to wait for Belterra, who will be an overwhelming favorite here Friday in the $250,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes.

Ms Brookski, upset winner of the Davona Dale Stakes in her last start, is the most accomplished rival set to face the unbeaten Belterra in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss, the premier race for 3-year-old fillies each winter at Gulfstream.

Other probables for the 1 1/16-mile race include Dust Me Off, Miu Miu, and Stormy Frolic.

Trainer Carl Nafzger has said repeatedly that the April 6 Ashland Stakes and May 3 Kentucky Oaks are the primary early-season goals for Belterra, who wasn't severely pressed in her three career wins, all in Kentucky last fall.

With Nafzger away from the barn Tuesday morning at Gulfstream, assistant Ian Wilkes said everything is perfect with Belterra going into the Bonnie Miss. On Monday, Belterra had her final workout for the race when she breezed five furlongs in 1:00.

Ethan Man heads Swale

Like the Bonnie Miss, the $150,000 Swale Stakes, the main attraction on the Florida Derby undercard, is likely to draw a small field. Ethan Man is the probable favorite in the Grade 3, seven-furlong Swale in a field that also will include Axis, Governor Hickel, and Monthir.

One possible starter for the Swale is Listen Here, who won his first three starts before fading to sixth in his 2-year-old finale, the Nov. 24 Remsen. A Gulch colt, he is based at Payson Park with trainer Bill Mott.

The other stakes on the Saturday undercard are the $100,000 One Dreamer and $100,000 Equalize.

The Sunday feature is the $100,000 Hurricane Bertie for filly and mare sprinters.

Tweedside back a winner

Tweedside, winner of the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks last summer, made a successful return to the races Monday when she drew off to a 2 1/2-length victory in a $40,000 allowance race at about 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

"I thought she ran really well," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "I'll probably run her next in the Bewitch" next month at Keeneland.

After winning the CCA Oaks, Tweedside, owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, finished poorly in her next two races, the Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 1 Flower Bowl.

Pletcher then gave Tweedside, a Thunder Gulch filly, time off before having her ready to win Monday.

Big win for Rose

Veteran jockey Roger Velez said he got a tremendous thrill out of winning the Creme Fraiche Handicap Sunday on Hal's Hope, particularly because the horse's trainer, Harold Rose, had not won a race from his first 42 starters at the Gulfstream meet.

"It's been a rough meet for Papa Rose, so it was really great to win that for him," said Velez.

Velez and Rose, 90, were the feel-good story of the Kentucky Derby campaign two years ago, when Hal's Hope captured the Florida Derby.

Excelsior likely for Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, a fast-closing third behind Hal's Hope and American Halo in the Creme Fraiche, probably will run next in the Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct next month, said trainer Frank Alexander.

Alexander said he told jockey John Velazquez "to get him back to last and make one move. That's the way this horse wants to run."

Windsor Castle is still looking for his first win since capturing the 2000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.

Level Three a threat

Back-to-back allowance races are the main attraction Thursday at Gulfstream. The eighth race, a $36,000 allowance on the main track, might be the better race, with Woodmoon, runner-up in the Ohio Derby last summer, the likely favorite in a field of 10.

One potential upsetter in the eighth race is Level Three, trained by T.V. Smith. In his last start, Level Three finished a strong second behind Baseball Champion.

"I thought it was a good race and he got beat by a nice horse," said Smith. "Hopefully my horse is ready to step up. He'd better. He's had free room and board lately."

The ninth is a $38,000 allowance scheduled for the turf, with a maximum of only eight starters if the race stays on grass. A.P. Delta and Kick Boxer are the likely favorites on turf.