09/18/2005 11:00PM

Connie Belle has Spa woes behind her


ELMONT, N.Y. - The connections of Connie Belle must be hoping that a change of venue will bring a change of luck for their 3-year-old turf filly.

Connie Belle had trouble in both of her stakes appearances at Saratoga. Wednesday, with a clean trip, she appears the one to beat in the $65,000 Auntie Mame Stakes at Belmont Park. The Auntie Mame, scheduled for one mile on the Widener Turf, is for 3-year-old fillies who have yet to win a stakes on the grass.

, trained by Bill Mott, was beaten by 1 3/4 lengths when she finished fourth in the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga. In that race, she was checked entering the first turn and had no place to run in the stretch while Ready's Gal found room along the rail to win her second consecutive stakes race.

Connie Belle came back in the Tenski Stakes on Aug. 28 and bumped repeatedly with Who's Cozy down the backstretch. She wound up making the lead in midstretch, but could not hold off the late charge of Insan Mala and finished second.

The only previous time Connie Belle raced at Belmont, she was placed first by the stewards after finishing second behind Dream Lady. Jose Santos, the rider of Dream Lady, inadvertently hit Connie Belle in the face with the whip.

Jerry Bailey is named to ride Connie Belle on Wednesday. Bailey hurt his wrist in a starting gate mishap on Sunday, but his agent, Ron Anderson, said he expects Bailey back Wednesday.

Behind Connie Belle are several evenly matched fillies for whom cases can be made. , a New York-bred daughter of Rahy, is a winner over the Widener course and comes off a second-place finish behind Kate Winslet in the slower of two divisions of the Yaddo Handicap at Saratoga. Rahys' Appeal gets a rider switch to John Velazquez.

On the outside is , trained by Christophe Clement, who had a win and a second-place finish in allowance company in two Saratoga starts.

"She's a consistent filly," Clement said. "It might be a touch ambitious on paper. Mott's filly is the one to beat. Everything is subject to weather. They're talking thunderstorms Tuesday night."

, trained by Heriberto Cedano, finished right behind Connie Belle in the Lake George, but was beaten 11 lengths in the Lake Placid. She dropped to allowance company here on Sept. 10, finishing second.

Half Heaven, trained by Gary Contessa, is a three-time winner on the Widener Turf and comes off two decent efforts in high-priced claiming races at Saratoga.