12/11/2010 4:08PM

Long-idle Bella Medaglia launches comeback

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The 3-year-old Bella Medaglia looked like a filly with a stakes future last winter in New Orleans. Now, who knows what the future holds? Bella Medaglia hasn’t made a start since she hurt herself finishing fourth in the Silverbulletday Stakes on Feb. 20, but she is set to make her comeback in the featured third race Monday at Fair Grounds.

Bella Medaglia is one of six horses entered in a first-level allowance race carded for one mile and 70 yards on dirt. Only one other horse in the race, dirt-debuting Riviera Chick, has so much as started in a stakes, and on talent alone, Bella Medaglia probably lands on top. But her long layoff – and a minor setback a little more than a month ago – might drive bettors toward Crown Me Wicked, a filly who nearly cleared this allowance condition in a route race last month at Churchill Downs.

Bella Medaglia won a two-turn maiden race, then finished second to Quiet Temper in an allowance race and second to Jody Slew in the Tiffany Lass Stakes before sustaining a stress fracture of a cannon bone during the Silverbulletday. After a long period of rest and recovery, Bella Medaglia was entered in November at Delta Downs, but trainer Glen Delahoussaye said he scratched her from an allowance race because of a minor illness.

“I just went ahead with my preparations to bring her to the Fair Grounds after that,” said Delahoussaye, who trains Bella Medaglia for prominent Louisiana owner-breeder Coteau Grove Farm. “She’s training excellent. Her works are stellar.”

Delahoussaye, sizing up the competition Monday, said he was “a bit concerned about Mike Maker’s horse.” Maker has two in the race, but Delahoussaye referred to Crown Me Wicked, not Riviera Chick. Riviera Chick most recently finished a well-beaten second in an entry-level allowance over Keeneland’s Polytrack, and appears never even to have posted a timed workout on dirt. Crown Me Wicked, however, has never finished worse than second in four dirt starts, and on Nov. 11 came within a neck of winning a race at Monday’s class level. Robby Albarado, a jockey Delahoussaye likes to employ, has the mount, while Kerwin “Boo Boo” Clark rides Bella Medaglia for the first time.

Rail-drawn Absolutely Smart won twice last Fair Grounds season, but only beat short fields of claiming horses. Seeking Sheba, like Riviera Chick, never has raced on dirt, but unlike that filly has turned in a pair of encouraging drills over the Fair Grounds surface. Loose Screw crushed five $20,000 maidens in her career debut at Louisiana Downs, but might lack the quality to contend.