03/08/2007 12:00AM

Ella Belle on right track


When it comes to Ella Belle, trainer Buff Bradley wouldn't mind if every track used Polytrack as its main racing surface.

Ella Belle, the defending champion in the $50,000 Wintergreen Stakes at Turfway Park, "has always thrived on Polytrack," said Bradley. "We'll run her Saturday in the Wintergreen, then in the [March 31] Fairway Fun, and then hopefully once on the Poly at Keeneland. After that, I don't know."

Ella Belle is part of a full field of fillies and mares entered in the one-mile Wintergreen, the featured 11th of 12 races at Turfway in Florence, Ky. With Phil Teator to ride, Ella Belle will break from post 8 in a race that drew 13 entries but will be limited to 12 starters.

Ella Belle not only won the Wintergreen last March in sensational fashion, wiring the field to score by nearly six lengths, but she also led gate to wire in capturing the Feb. 10 Likely Exchange in her most recent start. Overall, Ella Belle has 6 wins from 22 starts, 5 of the wins on the Polytrack surface that Turfway installed in September 2005.

"She's doing super good," said Bradley. "My exercise rider, Jeff Lopez, has done a great job with her. He's really gotten her to relax in her training. I think she's trained better the last two months than she was at this time last year. She's getting more out of her gallops and her works."

Ella Belle, owned by a partnership of four men from Louisville and Lexington, figures to vie for favoritism in the Wintergreen with Half Heaven, who was second as the 11-10 choice in the Likely Exchange. Half Heaven, with Miguel Mena riding for trainer Dale Romans, drew post 11.

Fringe contenders in this 25th running of the Wintergreen include Daring Julie, a former $5,000 claimer who has been in peak form in recent months, winning 5 of her last 9 races; Country Fair, a late-running mare who figures to benefit if Ella Belle is pressed hard on the lead; and No Reason, a New York-bred filly who earned more than $250,000 last year when she raced primarily in her home state.

Tazotee is the lone also-eligible and needs an early scratch to make the lineup.

The Wintergreen, named for the winner of the 1909 Kentucky Derby, anchors a Saturday program that also includes two allowances (race 7 and 10). First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.