02/25/2008 1:00AM

Little Belle takes Busher for two in row


It took Little Belle four starts to graduate from the maiden ranks, but the Darley Stable homebred is now riding a two-race winning streak after posting a mild upset in Sunday's $81,600 Busher Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct.

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Little Belle stalked the pace set by the 1-2 favorite, Love Co, took over from the outside into the stretch, and drove clear by 2 3/4 lengths over Sweet Vendetta. It was another 11 lengths back to Darling Monique in third. Love Co faded to fourth.

Little Belle "really has grown up over her last four races," said assistant trainer Art Magnuson. "She's a graded-stakes-type filly."

Little Belle ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast inner track in 1:44.32 under Rajiv Maragh, and paid $9.30 as the second choice in a field of six.

"Today was her best yet," said Maragh, who also won Saturday's Rare Treat Handicap. "She was focused and intent on winning. Every race has been a step forward."