03/18/2005 12:00AM

Molto Vita likely choice in '05 debut


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Dallas Stewart, who spends his winters at the Fair Grounds, went into the weekend with a strong chance of sweeping two stakes at Gulfstream Park, concluding with Molto Vita in Sunday's $100,000 Hurricane Bertie Handicap. The 6 1/2-furlong, Grade 3 dash drew a compact lineup of six fillies and mares.

Stewart, who has not stabled regularly at Gulfstream Park in several years, was scheduled to run likely favorite Cape Town in Saturday's Herecomesthebride Stakes. Meanwhile, Molto Vita will go off as the starting highweight under 118 pounds and should also be the public's choice under jockey Jerry Bailey in the Hurricane Bertie.

has not started since winning Keeneland's Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes on Oct. 17. The victory capped a successful 2004 campaign for Molto Vita, who also won the Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Handicap, and finished second behind Lady Tak in Belmont's Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap and fourth behind her in the Grade 1 Ballerina.

Molto Vita trained steadily at the Fair Grounds before shipping here this week. Her best work was a bullet six furlongs in 1:13 on March 5.

Forty Moves and Bohemian Lady, the first and second finishers in a third-level optional claiming race here on Jan. 28, will meet again for a far more lucrative purse on Saturday.

overcame trouble on the turn yet overtook Bohemian Lady in late stretch en route to a 1 3/4-length victory in their first encounter. The Hurricane Bertie will mark the third graded stakes start for Forty Moves and the first since she finished a well beaten fifth in the Gallant Bloom.

had been idle nearly seven months before returning to finish second to Forty Moves earlier in the meet. Bohemian Lady had faced Grade 1 competition, finishing well back in the Prioress and Acorn stakes, to close out an abbreviated 3-year-old season that included a win in the Grade 3 Cicada.

Trainer Allen Jerkens will send out the 8-year-old Lilah, who is riding a two-race win streak and has won 3 of her last 4 starts.

Expect an Angel upset Alix M. in Calder's Grade 3 Chaposa Springs Handicap to close out her 2004 season. She was overmatched in two graded stakes this meet, then rebounded with a win in $16,000 starter allowance company on March 4.

Brunilda, an Argentine-bred making her first start since switching to trainer Stan Hough's barn, rounds out the field.